“…And after the fire, sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he went out and stood at the cave’s door. Then came a voice…” – 1 Kings 19:12-13
You know the story: Elijah listens for God in wind, earthquake, and fire. But God isn’t in the ruckus. It’s only after the storm that Elijah hears a hush, the whisper of God’s voice.
God doesn’t always sound like James Earl Jones. When God speaks, it’s not always to drown out the world’s racket with a racket of God’s own. God often sighs out a word in silence, where wisdom lives.
God has an indoor voice. It’s small and still. And only patience perceives it. To hear God—and, crucially, to be reasonably sure it is God, not some windbag, mover and shaker, or flash in the pan—you have to wait. And wait.
It takes time.
Too bad time is the one thing many of us, and our churches, are convinced we don’t have. That’s a big win for the Devil—to persuade us that time is too scarce to squander on attentive prayer, scripture-reading, and discernment. To convince us that in these demanding days, depth is a luxury we can’t afford. To make us so agitated about the world and the church that we seek a quick fix and leave a time-consuming God out of it.
You get what you pay for. And maybe that’s why many of our anxious efforts have such short shelf lives. Like earthquake, wind, and fire, they announce themselves with energetic fury, but they do not stay.
Meanwhile, God is in the silent deep, waiting for us to wait for a whisper, luminous and lasting, transforming and true.
Give us discerning hearts, O God, so that we may be wise.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.