In the first Book of Kings, read a few weeks ago at Mass (9: 91, 11-13a), we were reminded of a time Elijah was at the Mountain of God, Horeb, standing before a cave where he’d come to find shelter. While there, the Lord God spoke to him, saying, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”
Soon, a “strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind.” Not long after, an earthquake came, “but the Lord was not in the earthquake.” After that, a fire came, “but the Lord was not in the fire.”
It wasn’t until after the fire that things came together for Elijah, for that is when “a tiny whispering sound” emerged. “When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
I think of Elijah, recognizing at last that despite his expectations, God was not going to speak most directly to him in a loud booming voice, but in a quiet one. To me, the visual of Elijah hiding his face in his cloak shows his humility in submitting to God’s will and ways.
How often have we expected God to come howling into our lives? How often have we, in fact, demanded just that, only to find that God, instead, brushes past our ears ever so quietly on a whisper?
I am learning this, more and more, and like Elijah, I recognized God’s voice through the “tiny whispering sounds” that happened during a recent family vacation at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.
Yes, I felt God’s embrace in the loudness of family life, too, but even more than that, He sent sweet little messages to me in whispered breaths.
Like this one…a scene I came upon our first evening there. It was a spot below our cabin, and the lighting was just right. And God’s voice, as I looked out onto the glassy lake — an image that took my breath away — was clear and bright.
And this one…the sight of a vessel, seemingly out of nowhere: a surprise! Sometimes it’s hard to have to wait, and guess as to how things might turn out. But sometimes, the surprises in life are the best moments of all.
And this one…the looking up at and through towering trees and the feeling of my smallness as I stand below. To me, this says “awe.” Not a scary kind of awe, but an awesome, exhilarating kind of awe.
Or this one…the exquisite curling of white bark, and in the distance, the son curling, too, closing in on the day; ethereally bringing goodness to the coming night.
This one, too, came on whispers, and still nearly makes me dizzy to look upon it. The reflection of clouds and branches merging with real branches creates an illusion of thinness between where land ends and sky begins. I sense the closeness of the eternal.
When I headed up to the cabin, I looked back by chance and caught wind of God’s subtle “Goodnight” embrace, which warmed me and sent me softly into the evening.
The next day, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, God returned in the cattails…
And in the clarity of rocks below clear water…
As well as in a duck that trusted me for a while…
And my boys’ excited sounds as they conducted an experiment of “snorkeling with straws,” not to mention a purple wildflower…
Yes, God reaches us through humor, too, such as in this flower I caught on the way out. I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Seuss.
We are so depleted, so in need of the whispered messages that are every bit as powerful as the loud roars of thunderstorms and cracks of lightning that accompanies them. These whispers might come quietly, but they resound deeply.
Q4U: What message of significance came to you on a whisper?