Early every morning, I write. Along with journal writing, I read scripture and a couple of devotional passages. It is one of those habits that started as a discipline, but now is a soul soothing exercise that I do not skip. I have a formula I use in the writing that works for me. I’ve shared it here before and sometimes do workshops on it. This one small habit has transformed me.
A day or two a ago, during that early morning soul time, I was reading the familiar passage from 1 Kings:19 where Elijah is going through a rough time. He was battling all manner of things, fleeing from trouble, wandering in the wilderness. He even politely requests of God that he might just go ahead and die. He had been working passionately for God and now it seemed, maybe all been destroyed. He ends up in a cave “standing before God.”
And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks 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 a gentle whisper.1 Kings 19:11-12
I love the still quiet of early morning. I purposely go to bed early so I don’t miss that time. Sometimes, however, my brain and body are still waking up as I read and study. This day, I read the end of that passage incorrectly and believed that it said God was in a GIANT whisper.
I even wrote it down that way. Later, as I walked, I reflected on what an unusual translation I must have been reading and how amazing it is that God comes to us in GIANT whispers.
I remembered my children as early morning risers who as toddlers I tried to teach to be quiet for the sake of others sleeping in the house. They’d yell and I’d try to coach them to whisper and then they’d yell whisper.
It was only later that I realized I’d read my Bible wrong, projected my own needs onto that Word. It is a gentle whisper. In other translations it is God speaking in a still small voice.
Sometimes I feel like Elijah, battling all manner of things, running, giving up, crying out to God. Sometimes I feel like all the things I’ve worked for have been messed up in some way. I cry out and need a GIANT whisper from God. Sometimes I even think I hear that when I don’t.
God is the God of gentle whispers, subtle words, quiet almost indistinguishable answered prayers.
God’s gentle whisper is real. We’ve been promised that. It requires stillness to hear. It requires focus, prayer, attentiveness and being present in every way.
We’d love a GIANT loud whisper, something clearer, more definitive. We’d love a good strong wind, earthquake or fire message, wouldn’t we? A kind of big hefty message you cannot possibly mistake for anything else.
For some reason God regularly chooses gentle over GIANT, silent over loud, small over huge, steps over leaps, subtle over overt.
I’m praying for God to help me to read better and to listen ever so closely for the gentle whisper.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and early morning person.