Overheard by the soul
And we dance
to a whispered voice
overheard by the soul
undertook by the heart.
You may know it…
There’s an intriguing story in the first book of Kings, in the Old Testament. The prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life, because the queen, Jezebel, had sworn to kill him. It was no idle threat; she had already put many of Elijah’s fellow prophets to death. At one point, Elijah became so exhausted and discouraged that he prayed to God that he might die, but that prayer was answered with an angelic delivery of food and water, and a command to eat and drink to replenish his strength for a long journey.
Forty days later, God told Elijah to go to the mountain where God would pass before him. At this point, it’s easier, and more poetic, just to quote directly from the story– in this case, the New International Version:
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.
I’m sure you know, or have guessed, that God came to Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the gentle whisper. In the King James Version of the story, the translators used the term “a still, small voice,” which is the origin of that popular phrase.
I’ve thought of that story many times in the past five years or so, through the storms of our lives, in which I could not hear the voice of God despite clinging to the promise that God would be there for us. To the extent that I have felt a sense of God’s presence, it has been in the form of the whispered voice; a still, small reassurance that my soul can only occasionally overhear in the quiet of solitude.
The whispers, of course, are not literal sounds. But sometimes they are remembered echoes. Sometimes they are the unexpected discovery of a startlingly relevant message in a note written many years ago. Sometimes they rise from a photograph, or from a sunlit morning seen through a familiar window, or from the bloom of a botanical gift lovingly planted by one who would not live to see its growth.
As Neil Diamond suggested in the beautiful song linked above (which I hope you will take the time to experience), overhearing the whispered voice is only part of the experience. It must be undertaken by the heart, if we are to understand what we are hearing. There’s quite a trick to dancing to a whispered voice, when you think about it. The beat doesn’t come from a musical instrument, but from the heart. But what a dance it is.