Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. – 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NRSV)
“I’m looking for a sign,” said my friend. “God has always shown me signs.”
I wondered about my reaction, a clench in my stomach so subtle it was hard to measure yet impossible to ignore. I believed my friend’s experience. After all, the spiritual life is different for one person than another. Some might be better equipped to read the metaphysical evidence.
Still, though, how do we know if what we think is a sign is really a sign?
How do we know if we are looking for God’s communications in the right place?
Elijah, on the run and hiding in a cave, in fear for his life, was told the Lord would pass by. I don’t know what he expected, but probably not what he got: a manifestation of the Holy One translated variously as a small voice, or a sheer silence, or a voice of stillness.
When we are looking for a display of power and glory, or fixating on the ways other people hear God, we may overlook the quiet message that could guide us to the right path. When we cannot stop telling our own stories, trying with all we have to make sense of this life, we may miss the sound of a soft whisper that points to understanding.
Holy One, help me to keep still in your silence. Help me to hear you. Amen.