The Still, Small Voice of Love – HENRI NOUWEN
Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”
It is often difficult for us to appreciate just how beloved we are. As Nouwen says, there are many noisy voices; many that speak expectantly, and many that speak critically to us. Many voices demand our attention. But there is one voice that matters and it is often difficult for us to hear it; the voice of God. Hard to hear it because all those noisy voices. the voices that are ‘just sayin
That strong determination to listen, at least for me, means taking time in reading scripture and making space for quite prayer. This evening I had opportunity to kneel quietly in the church sanctuary in our new prayer space. In the quiet of the church there was opportunity to invite the noise of expectation and the chatter of criticism to ‘take a hike.’ What was left was a calm and still place. In simply breathing in the hope and love of God and exhaling the negativity of critical, there was at least the possibility of hearing the voice that calls be beloved.
I invite you to ask what voices are commanding your attention. Whose noisy words hinder you from hearing God declare how beloved you are? Take some time in a quiet place. As you breathe in, perhaps pray a simple mantra “I am God’s Beloved.” As you exhale, release the negativity of others expectations. Prayer is listening for that voice of love, requiring us to be still, be strong, and be open.
We should also be reminded that we need not be the noise that hinders another from hearing and understanding how beloved they are. Jean Vanier wrote, “To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth and their importance.” As we journey together on this road of faith let us remember that the words we use when we communicate with one another ought to help people hear and understand how beloved and valuable they are. Our words have great power to life up and to tear down.
We are reminded in the Book of James of the power of our words –
4 Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. 5 In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.
Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. 6 The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.
7 People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. 8 No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!
11 Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.
In this day in age we ought to consider ‘the tongue’ to include our tweets, our text messages, our emails – our communication.
Let us consider if we want to use our words to contribute to the noise that hinders another from the love of God, or if we might use our words to still, to calm, to soothe and to help another to find the solitude needed to hear and understand that they are beloved!