“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.” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)
I was about 17 the year my dad decided we would take our annual vacation in New York City.
Being from a small town in Belgium, our arrival in the Big Apple was pure culture shock. There was so much noise! The traffic was terrible and very noisy, with car horns reverberating between the tall buildings. And the sidewalks were as crowded as the roadways! I had never been around so many people, and I decided right then and there that I didn’t like it!
The other problem was that it seemed people cared only about themselves…Even though the place was so crowded, no one seemed to notice anyone else. Everyone just hurried along as if there was no one else around them, as if their own agenda was the only one that mattered.
My mom had a very lost look on her face, and when we shared a glance, I could tell she was as far out of her comfort zone as I was. What had we done? Would we even be able to sleep at night with all this noise?
My dad loved the city. He seemed to thrive on the noise and the confusion, and he spend the afternoon steering my mom and I from one store to the next. One of these stores was a Jewish store. I had no idea why he would have gone into this store, as he was not Jewish, but I dutifully followed him inside, hoping for a tiny break from the noise. I couldn’t have been more shocked when my dad took me by the arm and marched me up to the merchant with a huge smile on his face. “My son speaks Hebrew!” he informed the confused store owner.
I stood there with my mouth hanging open. It was true that I had taken Hebrew in school, for I was a theology student. But by no means would I have ever considered myself fluent in the language! I could feel a burning sensation creeping up the back of my neck and onto my face. I was sure I must have looked a little bit like a beet as I braced myself for an onslaught of Hebrew spoken from a native speaker…
I was more than relieved when that onslaught didn’t come. Instead, with an apologetic smile, the store owner shrugged and said, “congratulations! I wish I did!”
But perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered even if the merchant spoke Hebrew. With all the noise, he would have understood why I couldn’t understand him, and any muttered response of mine would have been masked out!
I had to wonder how anyone could hear God’s voice above all the noise.
Even though I’ve never been back to New York City, so much of my own life has been spent with similar noise. Perhaps it wasn’t the ear-damaging kind of noise, but it was the noise of stress, of tackling too much at one time, of trying to please everyone when that isn’t possible; or it was the noise of problems, illness, or the results of my poor decisions… These types of “noise” make it pretty hard to hear God’s voice as well. In order to be able to communication with our Lord and Maker, we have to “turn off the “noise”… Give our problems to God and make Him our priority! When we do, we’ll experience, like Elijah of old, that God doesn’t speak through the noise and the stress and the busyness of life. God speaks in the “gentle whisper”. We need to be listening, or it might be masked out by the circumstances we face. We need to make the effort to set aside time to hear His voice!
Will you make this a priority today?
In His love,
(To access the entire “New York, New York!” devotional series, please click here!)