Alfred Corn posted the phrase “still, small voice” on Facebook yesterday and it reminded me of a poem I wrote over 20 years ago, called “Spring Storm.”
The phrase comes from the story of Elijah’s encounter with God on Mt. Horeb (Sinai), which appears in 1 Kings.
Fleeing Jezebel and Ahab, Elijah travels on foot from Mt. Carmel to Be’er Sheva (about a 39 hour walk, as Google Maps would have it).
Along the way he is fed by ravens in the wilderness and, eventually, continues on to the same mountain where God spoke to another, earlier prophet.
He takes refuge in the cave until he is called to stand before God as He “passes by.”
God’s idea of passing by is, of course, in the form of wind, an earthquake, and fire.
After that, Elijah hears “a still, small voice” – actually, it was probably tinnitus from such a raucous display – which gave him further instruction from God about anointing his successor as prophet, Elisha.
So, was it the sound of the sudden silence or a whisper that Elijah heard? Or could it have been his own voice from within, full of the wisdom from his meditation in the cave?
Hard to say, but the idea of a still, small voice that speaks to us resonates with me.
Sometimes, it can be a frustrating voice, seeding jealousy, resentment, and loneliness.
More often than not, if we listen closely and in mindfulness, it is a voice full of goodwill, forbearance, and companionship.
I suggest in the poem that the still, small voice is nearly always an echo of something within us, imploring us to act, to be moved – to love.
Here is my poem, “Spring Storm”:
The rain comes with the familiar cadence
of an old friend chattering-on
about nothing in particular.
And the still, small voice
comes from out of nowhere
–an unlikely sound in a spring storm.
No thunder, no trumpet:
“So this is your house and how you keep it.”
The house, lived in for years,
perhaps recently swept clean
–I keep a house fit for spiders.
And the still, small voice that resonates
below thunder, comes with a calm,
moves like an undulance in a pine floor,
reaching under the rain
to take part in the holy chorus,
encircling in a pool of slow-moving glory.
We talk about redemption,
talk about the need for the personal,
and then go quietly about our work.
When the storm ends,
it’s with a murmur, “Peace be with you.”
Sing praises, now, for that stillness
and for the need to make out the sound;
sing praises, now, for the thunder,
which did not come with the rain,
but that filled our hearts
of a spring evening, in our repose.
It is our own voices calling to us,
and we must take heed.
–Scott Edward Anderson
This poem first appeared in A New Song