There are few passages of Scripture that stay with me like the story of Elijah’s journey to the Gentle Whisper. I’m constantly reminded of it whenever I experience my own wanderings, winds, earthquakes, fires, or Gentle Whisper. It has created a guide for my understanding of circumstance and God, as well as my ability to detach the two without declaring either absent.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 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. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “Why are you here?”
– 1 Kings 19.11-13
I believe that passage is applicable to every single person at any moment. You’re either experiencing a search (like Elijah up the mountain), the winds of circumstance, earthquakes of disruption, fires of passion and confidence, or the Gentle Whisper. Most people go their whole lives mistaking God as any one of those things prior to the Gentle Whisper. This mistake sadly deafens us to the quiet, humble nature of God’s voice in our lives. Hearing it takes space. Space in our schedules, minds, hearts, and lives. Those other things just fill space. We need to make room.
As of late, I’m drawn to what the Gentle Whisper asked after the journey, earthquake, wind, and fire, “Why are you here?”
It’s a strange question from the One who called him to that place. It’s also the same question God asks Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit. And the same question Jesus asks the blind person asking for help. These questions all have “obvious” answers, but that is often something God calls into question.
Why are you here?
God cares about us knowing the answer to that question.
How I answer it will tell me a lot about my outlook on life. Do I look at the circumstances leading to now? If so, I may be living in the past. Do I look at the possibility of purpose in present circumstances? If that’s true, I could be looking at life as a win or lose game of chess meant to be mastered or controlled, rather than an experience to be fully immersed in. Or do I look at it as a question of my character, motivation, and internal conditioning? To the heart, is where God will always direct our attention.
The “why” in why I am here is a vulnerable one. When I stop blaming my past or idolizing or fearing my future, “why” I’m here takes being okay with having complete honesty with myself. Why am I here? What are the subtle motives, fears, and ambitions moving within my heart as I seek God?
The answers to that question have revealed idolatry, hypocrisy, and anxiety within me. They also tell me what kind of god I’m really praying to: one that works for my insecurities. A false, me-centered god. I’ve projected that psychologically damaged image of god onto Christ for years. And I still work at removing it. As it is purged, something new can take place in that new vacant space: Love, healing, and connection.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
- 1 Corinthians 13.12
It is important that we are known. Why are you drawn to God? Why are you drawn to church? Why are you drawn to the bar? Why are you drawn to solitude? Why are you drawn to chaos? Why are you praying the prayers you're praying? Why are you here?
May we make room to hear our own answers to those questions so that we can set them down to listen to the Gentle Whisper in our own lives.
When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. … And when you pray, do not keep on babbling … for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
– Jesus, Matthew 6:6-8