The other day, Leigh was in Super Target (our home away from home!) with our youngest daughter, Molly. As usual, Molly was being cute, cuddly – and a bit too loud. Sometimes, for no reason, she likes to start yelling, “Help! Help!” in the middle of a store, which of course draws stares for the other shoppers. We have to explain that she really is our daughter and there’s no need to issue an Amber Alert because we’re not trying to kidnap her.
This time, Leigh said to Molly, “You have to be quiet, or we won’t get to play Elmo games on the computer,” which, for a toddler, is a serious threat. After about ten minutes, Leigh realized Molly hadn’t said a word and had a bit of a hang-dog look on her face. Molly didn’t talk in the ice cream aisle, she didn’t talk in the candy aisle, and she didn’t even talk when the grocer said “Hi” to her (and this is usually a VERY social little girl!).
Leigh was beginning to think something was seriously wrong, so after she checked out she pulled the cart over to the side and said, “Molly, are you OK?” Molly just looked at her and nodded but didn’t say anything. Leigh said, “What’s wrong, baby? You can tell me.” Molly finally opened up and said, “I’m just being quiet so we can play Elmo games!” Who knew our child could be so obedient?
How many of us take the same opportunity to be quiet? We live in a world that values communication and information, so to be quiet seems to go against our very fabric. How many of us leave the TV or radio on even when we’re not paying attention to it? We call it “background noise,” emphasis on the “noise.”
It reminds me of this obscure little passage from 1 Kings. The prophet Elijah is on the run from evil queen Jezebel, who wants to kill him. While hiding out in a cave, God comes to him: “The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
Our lives are full of the noise equivalent of powerful winds, deafening earthquakes, and roaring fires. Is it realistic to expect God to shout louder than all of these sounds in order for us to hear His word for us? Instead of trying to out-noise the noise, God comes to Elijah as a gentle whisper. How different that must have sounded!
I tend to turn the radio up loud when I drive. Because of this, I don’t often listen to the sound of my car. Leigh will drive it and say, “Don’t you hear that grinding sound in your car?” And I say, “How can I hear anything when the radio is up so loud?” My car is trying to tell me something, but I’m not listening.
I wonder how many times God has tried to tell me something, but my ears have been too full to hear it. Instead of asking God to take on the formidable task of breaking through the noise, I wonder what would happen if we all followed Molly’s lead and just got quiet. What could we hear if we stopped listening to the sound of our own voice and started listening for God’s voice, that gentle divine whisper?
Where is the quiet time in your life? If you just rolled your eyes, then I would submit that God is speaking to you, not through wind or fire or earthquake, but through a gentle whisper. Listen. Just listen.