The voice(s) I listen to make a difference in my life.
When I was a youngster, some of the voices around me made me cry. As a sensitive, young boy, the older neighbor boys would call me “cry-baby” when we played tackle football. They would prove themselves right. When I got hit too hard by a thrown football, yes… I cried and confirmed the neighbor boys’ deep conviction that I was a “cry-baby.”
Even into middle school, I remained deeply sensitive. Somehow though, there had been a shift. With new glasses and braces, I now heard the athletic jocks call me “the brain.” Socially, at least one clique of jocks wouldn’t miss a chance to tease or kid me about being “a brain.” As a skinny athlete, with new braces and glasses, I was beginning to walk and listen to the voice of a deeper drum, one that resonated deep from inside. Seemingly alone at times, I was quite comfortable in my own skin and with who I was at that time. My friends just needed more time to find their way.
When the prophet Elijah was on Mount Horeb, he was told to stand on the mount as the Lord was to pass by. “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the 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; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV) It was here, in the silence (NRSV says – “sheer silence”) that the Lord spoke to Elijah.
Today, there are different voices competing for my attention. Like the boys from my childhood, voices from the outside still try and make me fear for my own life and future. These worldly voices bring up a whole host of insecurities which make me feel as if I don’t have enough and that I am not enough! How easy it is to let the voices from the outside make us fear for our lives and usurp that still small voice from within.
I’m still on the journey of recognizing that still, small voice. One of my travelling companions is Sr. Mary Margaret (“Meg”) Funk and her book Thoughts Matter. Through the Rule of St. Benedict stemming from a fifteen-hundred-year-old tradition, Sister Meg lays out a catechetical model of dealing with thoughts about food, sex, things, anger, dejection, acedia, vainglory, and pride. In this discipline, she lays out that through her experience and the Benedictine tradition, she has found that unchecked thoughts can slip into desires, passions, and ultimately sin. While I am a novice to this new way of cultivating a quieter, more still interior life, I sense that I am on the path to listening and recognizing that still, small voice deep within.
When those worldly voices (i.e. – the tempter) try to steer me through fear to empty idols, I take heart in the gifts God has given to me. My favorite story shared by one of my seminary professors in dealing with the tempter goes like this: When the tempter comes and tries to get me to succumb to fear, all I need to do is tell the tempter one simple thing (pointing to a crucifix) - “If you have anything you need to say to me, you need to go tell him first.”
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul shares these words “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:3-5a, NRSV)
Indeed. The voices I listen to in my life makes a difference. When I take time to listen to that still, small voice deep within, my heart and my soul find rest and peace. When I don’t, it is quite easy for those worldly voices to have their say. Thanks be to God that we have been given God’s ultimate gift God’s love poured out for us in Christ Jesus. Now, instead of succumbing to earthly fears, I can just turn to the tempter and say “If you have anything you need to say to me, you need to go tell him (J.C.) first.”