By Jovannah McCusker
Imagine you’re sitting on a hill peacefully enjoying the scenery when all of the sudden a strong wind begins to blow around you. The pace quickly and steadily increases until it becomes so strong that you can hear it rushing past you and feel it pelting against your skin. A few moments later, an earthquake begins to rumble, and you are shaken from your seat on the grass. As you struggle to pick yourself up you catch glimpse of a fire raging far off in the distance and you frantically wonder what could be going on.
Now I have a question: do you think, amidst all of this chaos, that you would be able to hear God?
I know I wouldn’t.
As I reflect on the image painted above I begin to realize the ways in which this scenario play out in my everyday (and I mean every day) life. Now of course, I’ve never actually sat on a hilltop while an earthquake is going on around me and a fire is raging in front of me… and I probably never will. But as outrageous as it sounds, someone actually has had this experience. In the Old Testament the Prophet Elijah’s experience is recounted as he is commanded by the Lord to “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” He is told that the Lord will be passing by, and as the wind, earthquake, and fire come, Elijah confirms that the Lord is not in them. It is not until all the storms have passed that he hears the Lord in “a tiny whispering sound”. This story reminds me that I must be attentive in order to hear the Lord, and makes me think of how the wind, earthquakes, and fire symbolize the top three things that inhibit me from doing so: noise, busyness, and passions.
Let me explain.
Wind can at times be so strong that you can actually hear it; it makes noise. I think maybe this is number one, at least for me. I have so much noise in my life. There are the actual audible noisy things, such as my own chatter, music, videos, and tv, but then there is what I consider to be the thing that actually creates the most noise (even though you can’t physically hear it): social media. I spend far too much time scrolling through my phone everyday, filling myself with endless amounts of information that create so much unnecessary noise. The point is pretty obvious here:
I can’t hear God when there is so much noise in my head and in my heart.
I need to cultivate silence, externally, but most importantly, internally. God speaks in the silence of the heart, and if I’m endlessly crowding my heart with so much noise, I will never hear Him.
Now on to earthquakes. When I think of earthquakes, forces so strong that they make a massive earth shake, I think of movement. For us humans, movement can often manifest itself in a negative way through busyness. I run about everyday busying myself with tasks and checking them off my to-do list, but in order to hear God I have to be still. I need to cultivate stillness by regularly taking a break from my endless list of to-dos.
Stillness is such a hard thing to accomplish, especially internal stillness.
It’s funny how just like silence, it is something fairly easy to attain outwardly (it’s not that hard to sit still) (unless you’re a toddler), but very difficult to maintain inwardly. But in order to still my soul I have to still my body first. When I stop everything I’m doing and just sit still for a while, I can effectively create an environment in which my mind and heart can rest, too.
Last but certainly not least, fire. Fire is often-times associated with strong desire, passion, or even anger. Although having a passion for something is not bad, there are passions that are evil that most powerfully obscure the voice of God, as they separate us so far from Him that He is no longer in reach. Worldly passions have this way of looking so dazzling and brilliant, much like fire. Also much like fire, they can be dangerous.
I find myself so caught up in worldly affairs that even if I was sitting very still in perfect silence, my mind and heart would still be so cluttered that there’s no way I could hear God.
It’s hard work, but persevering in stripping myself of worldly passions through prayer goes a long way in improving my receptivity to the voice of God.
The storms will continue to rage, complete with strong winds, shattering earthquakes, and blazing fires. As long as I’m human, I suppose, I will continue to struggle with the temptations to become entangled in excessive noise, never-ending busyness, and unhealthy passions. But today I am thankful that I can have silence, stillness, and prayer to help combat these temptations and truly hear the Lord speak.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jovannah was born and raised in California, lived in Florida for four years while she earned her degree in theology at Ave Maria University, and now lives in Vermont with her husband Joshua. She is a writer, lover of the outdoors, and coffee connoisseur. Her spirituality is most like that of Saints Therese and Jose Maria Escriva. She is very passionately pro-life, loves children, and strives to find holiness in the ordinary tasks of everyday life.