My “little sister” gives the best advice.
I really don’t call her that anymore since we’re both in our 40s, but the years I spent thinking of her in that way is exactly what kept from realizing this important truth. For most of my life, when I struggled with a problem, I had my “go to” advice-givers…my grandmother, my mom and dad, my older sisters, and a few close and trusted friends. With my younger sister, I could only see myself as the “big sister” who was there to give HER advice, not the other way around.
How many years I wasted not taking advantage of the wise and helpful guidance she had to offer! It was with a sheepish and regretful sense of surprise that I allowed myself to discover her wisdom and her insight.
We see something similar in 1 Kings when God tells the prophet Elijah to go out and stand before Him. Elijah looks to all the usual and expected places to hear God…only to find that God was somewhere else.
“And as he stood there the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain; it was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Instead, Elijah heard God in the sound of a gentle whisper…not what he was expecting at all! “When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his scarf and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:13)
We know that God whispers—the whisper of a baby born in a stable on a quiet and holy night, the whisper of a resurrected Lord appearing to a couple of women and a small group of disciples. And we know that He is a God of surprises, speaking to us when we least expect it.
Elijah listened in all the mighty places for the voice of God, never imagining it would come as a gentle whisper.
God speaks to us in so many ways—through what we may describe as “gut feelings”, through the events in our lives, through the voices of others, through our children, images in nature, our dreams…the possibilities are endless. We have to be awake and alive to each moment, and open to hearing God everywhere.
My prayer for you as we enter the holy season of Lent, is that you will let yourself be surprised by God. Don’t get stuck in all the usual places you go to hear God. Listen for God in places you don’t normally listen. Let us follow the suggestion of Vinita Hampton Wright in her book, Days of Deepening Friendship:
Over the next several days, practice listening. Listen to everything—traffic sounds, nature sounds, speaking sounds, and the sounds of peace and quiet. Try to listen with great attention for five or ten minutes every day. Do this during a coffee/tea break, if that helps. Then, gradually tune in to God’s voice. This voice will come through many of the sounds you have already been noticing. It will also emerge as you partake of the arts—books, music, paintings, dance, and so forth. You will hear God’s voice during worship or while your children are playing. Try to spend a few moments each day quietly listening for God. Don’t say anything or ask for anything. Or if you do ask for something, may it be, “God, help me tune in to your voice.”
These days, I make it a habit to seek my younger sister’s advice about all kinds of things. She inspires me and encourages me all the time, and I learn so much from her.
In much the same way, the more time and practice you devote to spending time with God—listening for God’s “gentle whisper”—the more tuned in you’ll become to God’s messages in all areas of your life, and at any time of day.
Background photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash