Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Stillness: Listening to God's Still, Small Voice

When we slow down enough to become present to the moment, we make ourselves available to God. We become attentive to his voice. God is speaking to us—in our Scripture reading for the day, in a sermon we hear, in a friend’s word of correction. During times of solitude and silence, these words come back to our minds. God’s voice bubbles to the surface of our consciousness when we allow ourselves to become fully present.

Elijah’s Example
After Elijah’s intense ministry on Mount Carmel and dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal, he was physically and emotionally exhausted. It took him some time to rest, re-nourish and refocus before he could hear the voice of God. (See I Kings 17-19.)

Then Elijah traveled to the mountain of the Lord. There, sheltered in a cave, he went through a tempest on Mountain Horeb. The powerful wind shattered the rocks, the earth quaked, and the fire fell from heaven. But God was not in the storm—Elijah did not hear the Lord’s voice during all the dramatic events.

Finally, Elijah did hear God speak like a gentle wind, a gentle whisper. He went to the edge of the cave and heard the voice of the Lord in the still, small voice.

Noisy Storms
When our lives are filled with clanging and banging of activity and unresolved inner thoughts, we also cannot hear God’s voice. We are like Elijah in the midst of the earthquake, wind and fire—all we hear is the tempest.

“A gentle person hears God’s voice which a turbulent, angry person cannot hear,” states Johannes Tauler, “for when the wind rages and the windows and doors clatter, one cannot hear well. Do you desire to receive the Father’s hidden, heavenly word in you, which will be spoken in holy whispers to the innermost place in your soul? Then all turbulence in and around you must be eradicated, and you must become a gentle lamb—calm and serene. You must abandon all the storms in your life in order to listen for this beloved voice in gentle stillness.” [1]

Advent Stillness
Advent is a time of preparation as we move toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We make our hearts ready to accept more of what the Lord has for us. In reality, we make ourselves ready to receive more of the Lord himself.

In order to do so, we must make some space for quiet. We must cultivate stillness in our lives. When we do so—when we come into the “now” and become stilled inside—we make ourselves present to God. There, like Elijah, we can hear his voice in a brand new way.

[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), p. 93.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

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