Hearing Voices

(This post was originally published on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog on January 15, 2020. You can find it here.)

“Who do we become when we stop allowing all the voices in our head to crowd out the one voice we must hear to come to life?”

(Erwin McManus)

I find deep beauty in the hush that falls over my heart and home after the holiday chaos has ebbed. Décor is stowed until next year, surfaces are reordered, and a gentle blanket of silence fills the previously riotous internal and external spaces of life. 

Here in the pause, the first part of Isaiah 30:15 expands in real time, a banner of peace spread triumphant—”For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”” Do I really have permission to stop? To surrender all the imaginary ground I’ve taken in the name of Pinterest-inspired productivity? To find my strength in standing-still-faith? 

For a few seconds, this good news sings me awake. 

And then the voices break in, slow at first, building to a dull roar.

“Rest is great, but there’s so much to do! Remember that list we made?” “Stop giving in to laziness.” “We can be quiet right after we watch one episode.” “Are you sure God wants you to not do anything? That doesn’t sound right.” “Think of all the plates we have spinning! What happens if we pause? Who will we even be when the world comes crashing down?”

The voices of enticement, shame, distraction, doubt, and panic roll in like the tide, smothering my soul back into a deathlike sleep, and the promise of rescue fades away amid the static.  

Interestingly, Isaiah 30:15 doesn’t end with a promise; it ends rather starkly—”but you were unwilling.” 

When interpreting the written word, whether it’s a text message or a text of Scripture, the tone you read into it impacts the meaning you get out of it. Adding a mental filter of anger, sarcasm, contempt, or apathy can warp the author’s original intent. God issues the last bit of this verse not with a tone of cold finality but from the pleading heart of a Father who longs to see His children thriving in His presence. (Don’t believe me? Skip to verse 18!) 

He can’t help calling us back home. His voice is warm and compassionate, but as Elijah discovered in the mountain cave, it is also still and small. Of course the King of creation can boom out in thunderous surround sound; that’s just not His typical way. He’s more a “lean in and listen” kind of communicator. 

Despite my inner chorus (which requires zero effort to hear), God intently waits for me in Isaiah 30:15.   

I can block Him out, attuning myself to the cacophony of voices in my head that point me in a thousand different directions. Or I can mute every other tongue but His, settle contentedly into stillness, and remember precious and true things found only when I’m snugly wrapped up in His arms. 

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