Hearing God’s voice

Daily Office readings for Sunday, March 16, 2014:

Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)

Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)

Genesis 41:14-45

Romans 6:3-14

John 5:19-24

This week’s most recent celebrity death might not have caught our attention if we’d only read the name–Hal Douglas is not generally a household word in our celebrity memory banks, but had he read his own obituary, we would have certainly noticed it. You see, Hal Douglas was one of three people who dominated the U.S. movie trailer industry for decades. Although no one knows who actually originated the opening movie trailer phrase, “In a world…” he certainly capitalized on it.

Hal Douglas was a guy who we’d have known anywhere if only we got to hear him speak.

Psalm 29 speaks of God’s voice with a similar recognizable quality. So how come our experience generally isn’t that we recognize God’s voice with the kind of surety we would have for a Hal Douglas movie trailer?

I suspect it’s because when we’re at the movies, we have no place else to go, and nothing to do but watch the trailer. The lights are down. Our cell phones have been muted or turned off (hopefully.) We’re sitting with our soda and popcorn with nothing to do but wait for the trailers to play and the movies to start. We’re paying attention to the trailers because we’ve already made the choice about this movie and we are already thinking of the next one. We already want to know what the next move we want to see will be and plan accordingly.

In a world of busy-ness and distraction, God’s voice doesn’t get that kind of attention. We are tied up in the noise. Unmistakable as the sound of God’s voice might be, its thunder can’t always be discerned from the cacophony around us. It can be like trying to hear a specific movie trailer in a room where movie trailers are playing all around us in surround sound.

Most of us would have never seen Hal Douglas if he’d walked past us on the street, but if his was the only voice we heard in a quiet room, we’d quickly recognize it beyond the shadow of a doubt as “the movie trailer guy,” and we’d listen. We’d trained ourselves to know he had something to tell us that would be meaningful soon enough, even if we didn’t quite know exactly when that would be.

It’s exactly why we need to make time in our lives–even if it’s only the length of a few movie trailers–to become accustomed to what the sound of God’s voice is to us. It’s why reflective silence and contemplation is an important regular piece of our prayer lives. Lent is a great time to learn that skill, whether it’s a retreat, a quiet day, or simply the habit of developing a regular time to be still in the presence of God, or create a small space in our homes conducive to that.

In a world of noisy confusion, how can each of us create space to begin the work of discovering the unmistakable qualities of God’s voice?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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