Friday, May 19, 2023

A Whispering God

I just finished reading an adventure novel entitled Relic by T. S. Falk. It reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie, complete with an archeology student, evil Nazis, and a buried ancient artifact, just like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The dashing adventurer was adventuring in the Amazon basin escorted by a local guide. Around the campfire the guide tells the story of his father, also a guide, who years earlier was rescued in the jungle by an indigenous tribe that had never seen an outsider. He stayed with the tribe for months.

This tribe had a deity named Antaku, known as the Whisperer. When the elders of the tribe needed to know the Divine will, they would go into the jungle and spend days just listening. “Listen to the wind in the trees out here long enough and you hear them whisper. They believed this to be a God speaking to them in a language they had long forgotten.” 

His father went with the tribe to listen to God, but was bored after a couple of hours. But he had nothing else to do, so he listened with them. In time he could hear the whisper of God. The guide said that years later his father used to go off by himself and listen to the Whisperer. One day this father disappeared and was never seen again. He liked to think that his father is in the jungle listening to the Whispering God.

Last Sunday our pastor told the story of Elijah in the cave at Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. The prophet was seeking God. She retold the famous account of wind, earthquake and fire battering the mountainside. The story says that God was not in these noisy manifestations. Then there was “a still, small voice.” God was in this still small voice. Another translation says it was “a sound of sheer silence.” The version I was using in church called it “a gentle whisper.” This is the Whispering God.

While listening to the sermon, my mind wandered. (Sorry, Deb!) But in a good way. My mind went to the story of the Garden of Eden, where it says that Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. I imagined the soft tread of divine footsteps in the undergrowth of paradise. I imagined the voice of God speaking to our primordial parents in the wind.

This is the way God speaks to me. In soft silence. I sit on my back porch (as I am now), and I hear lots of noises: automobiles driving by, carpenters building a barn down the street, my wife talking on the phone inside the house. Beneath all the noises is the sound of the wind blowing from the north, rustling the foliage of the trees as it passes through. In that breeze is the voice of God.

Speaking about spiritual transformation, Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Okay, that was before modern meteorology, but you get his point.  It helps to know that the word translated “wind” can also be translated spirit or breath. (Where did Dylan say the answer is?) There is both a mystery and an answer in the silence, in the wind, and in the breath.

I watched a segment on the local news the other day about a young man who had grown up in the foster care system of New York City. He had a hard life and was headed in the wrong direction. But a couple adopted him when he was a teenager. His adoptive father taught him to meditate – to follow the breath – and it changed his life. His life came together. He graduated from college and is now a meditation instructor, teaching foster kids to meditate.

Silence is the whisper of God. God speaks most clearly to me in silence. In the silence of the woods when I am out of earshot of any road. In the sound of a mountain stream. On a mountaintop. At the lake at dawn. In the beat of my heart during contemplative prayer. In the rhythm my breath.

I love silence. I do not like noise. My wife can attest to this. She likes listening to music in our home; I shut it off whenever I can. I seldom listen to music outside of worship. I like silence even while traveling long distances in our car. I can drive for three days to Florida and never put on the radio. My wife … not so much.

The old song says that silence is golden. For me silence is divine. It holds the voice of God. God’s whisper is clearer than the voice of my mind. God is in the silence. For me there is no need for words during prayer. God is the Word before words – beyond words. God is the still small voice, the gentle whisper when all voices die away.  Jesus knew this. He often went off by himself to listen in silence. His followers learned from him. God’s people are God-whisperers.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I so agree with your feelings about silence. My husband turns on the radio; I turn it off.

This morning my daughter sent me a link about how listening to bird calls and songs are good for mental health. Another way God brings peace and comfort, I think.

Anyway, you are a wonderful writer.

Deb Kissell