1 Kings 19: 11-12
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper
Anyone following me on FB sure knows that I am a sports buff. As the T20 World Cup 2016 is going on, I am reminded of a World Cup match that I saw in 2003. This was the Semi Final Match between Australia and Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Australia was batting with gusto and the destruction man Adam Gilchrist was on song. Aravinda De Silva was bowling his second ball to Adam Gilchrist, which he tried to hit but it was caught by the wicket keeper Kumar Sangakara and there was a huge appeal. The umpire said no, not out and the appeal was about to fizzle off when the unbelievable happened. Adam Gilchrist started walking to the pavilion. The Sri Lankan players could not believe it. The most destructive batsman was not given out but walks out. What really happened? Adam Gilchrist says “ I knew I had a thick edge to the ball”Catch it! Catch it!” I heard. I stood and turned to see that [Kumar] Sangakkara had it. I knew I was out. It was so obvious.
Then, to see the umpire shaking his head, meaning, “Not out”, gave me the strangest feeling. I don’t recall what my exact thoughts were, but somewhere in the back of my mind, all that history from the Ashes series was swirling around. Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain and other batsmen, both in my team and against us, who did not walk out even when they were out disturbed me and I wanted to know what would I do in moments like these. I had spent all summer wondering if it was possible to take ownership of these incidents and still be successful. I had wondered what I would do. I was about to find out.
The voice in my head was emphatic.
And I did.
It was a really weird sensation to go against the grain of what 99 per cent of cricketers do these days, and what we’ve been doing for our whole careers. I was annoyed because I felt like I was batting well and had the chance to lay the foundation for a big team score – and it was me taking that away from myself. But I could not ignore the voice that told me walk, you are out.”
This story may look very silly for those who read it. But I witnessed this live and it changed the outlook of my life. As a youth it became very clear to me that there is a whisper of God that does not blast on your face like a wind. Neither does God shake your world like an Earthquake to prove a point./ He intervenes in your life through a gentle whisper, and you should be able to discern that voice and heed to it. Strangely Adam Gilchrist made a Biblical truth more clear than any sermon or advice.
I think that statement is a starting point for us today. I believe today the air is saturated with voices that we keep hearing. Voices that say “You are important because you have money.” “You are ugly because you are fat.” “You are useless as you have done nothing significant yet.” “You need to prove your worth. Ordinary people like you cannot survive.” “This world is favorable to the young. Old people have no place here.” “Morality has no place in the market. The mantra is to compromise and move forward.” These voices are like the powerful wind, the earthquake and the fire. All three forces that we see in the text in front of us have a very devastating effect. It is powerful and it compels our attention. These voices of spectacular effect drown out all other voices. These voices are everywhere that we go. We cannot escape them. It is common logic that the voices we hear are the voices we replicate. We are not just victims of such voices stated above. We are the perpetrators of the said voices. These voices determine our relationships. These voices determine our understanding of community and family. These voices help us decide who is worthy to be called a human and who is not. It dictates our every part of life. These voices also end up in deciding who we are. We are always at the mercy of outside voices that sets conditions based on our utility. One is judged on the basis of being productive. That is the rule of the market.
The more we believe in such voices the more absurd our life becomes. We become an emotional wreck and competition looks like the only way to survive. It is interesting that the word ‘absurd’ is derived from the Latin word ‘surdus’ which means being deaf. So we are deaf to what? “After the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19: 12b). That gentle whisper was the voice of God. This voice says to us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11) or “This is my Son/ Daughter, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). But are we listening to such voices or are we turning deaf to it? The word ‘obedient’ has its roots in the Latin word ‘audiere’, which means to listen. Being obedient to God is to listen to his voice that is a gentle whisper. Listening to God is a discipline that we need to cultivate in the midst of the noise that we live in. The identity of Jesus’ followers are those who listen to his voice.“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.” (John 10: 27).
Prayer is that discipline that helps us listen to the gentle whispers of our God. As Henri Nouwen says “The toughest thing to do is, is to pray. Because the moment I remain silent I hear all the voices of the world that make me feel worthless. The silence makes me restless and to overcome it I start to talk to God. But I have to learn to listen to the gentle whispers of my Lord.” There are some voices that lead to death and destruction and some voices that lead to life and eternity. We are called to discern the voice of God that calls us “Beloved.” And when we listen to this voice, we spread this voice around us. We become a blessing to the people we work with and meet. Instead of gossiping, criticizing and spreading negative words, we become a blessing wherever we go. That is our calling and purpose of our life.
How to become a blessing? How to cut the chain of negative sequence? Let me end by telling you a story of my mentor Rev Dr Moni Mathew. During my internship with Navjeevan Centre, Mumbai, Rev Dr Moni was the director. Navjeevan is a Rehabilitation centre for children of commercial sex workers. It is a community living project for Children run by the Mar Thoma Church. We had a review session with the director. I had a feedback to give. I said “The children are not responsible about keeping their homes clean. Having surveyed their house (System where there will be 19-22 children per house with cooking facilities along with house parents), I find children have no sense of hygiene and their toilets and bathrooms are very filthy. Children are very irresponsible.” With the avalanche of my theatrics, Moni Achen just looked and said nothing. I was unsure as what steps would be taken. I was feeling let down by his response. After all I had given an Oscar winning performance in bashing the children up. Hope they who are now on Facebook, do not read this. All forgotten, next day all groggy eyed, I look out. I see Rev Moni walk out of the Farm house with a bucket, bathroom brushes, and some bottles. I was wondering what he was up to. I asked “What are you doing Achen?” He said “Let us clean the toilets of the children, I have some phenyl and acid, join me.” I was like “What?” But I did not dare to ask. He enters the house and starts cleaning the toilet to the utter shock of all the children. We all joined in the cleaning. With 6 hours, along with the Children and the director, all the toilets of 8 houses were cleaned and children all joined to the tune of a carnival.” No huge sermons of responsibility and no fire of wrath because of irresponsibility. An example where he got working and this picture I am sure remained with the children more than any other reprimand or sermon.
This example has become part of the “Gentle Whisper of God.” Whenever I am facing a situation where I judge people or condemn them, the image narrated above works as a gentle whisper of God. In our daily lives let us hear the gentle whispers of God to combat the negative voices and actions that surround and engulf.
Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopal