I read a short piece last week on parenting that you can find here. Basically the author said that instead of yelling at kids to get their attention or alter their current behavior, speaking quietly might be a more effective practice. The article is worth reading, and I am not attempting to rewrite it here, but one idea that she presented possessed broader, more spiritual, implications and has stuck with me for several days now.
One of the author’s conclusions as to why we raise our voices with our kids has to do with proximity. We yell when we aren’t close. We call out in loud, corrective tones when we hear chaos in other parts of our home. Even if we are in the same room as them, we can easily have our attention focused on something else entirely, so when we finally realize that hair is being pulled, punches are being thrown or tears are puddling up we aren’t in a position to “wade in” and course correct, we are forced into invading the scenario and hitting the emergency stop. I believe there is quite a bit of parenting wisdom that can be drawn from thinking this through, but that’s not my point here.
The New Testament clearly and repeatedly uses family language to describe our relationship with God. We are His children, sons and daughters. We often wonder why we don’t hear God, why He doesn’t seem to be more demonstrative. We are curious why the kinds of stories that we read in the Bible – stories of epic miracles, the suspension of the natural order and people doing seemingly impossible things – aren’t seen anymore. Many of us have prayed that we would hear the voice of God or see the direction He is pointing us toward. These are common desires and questions.
But it occurs to me that maybe it isn’t that God isn’t speaking, pointing or working but that we are expecting those things to look different than they actually do. What if God is speaking to you, maybe even today, but He’s closer and quieter than you could ever expect? God doesn’t yell at people He’s closest to, just like any good parent wouldn’t scream in a child’s face. The closer we get the more intimate, the more quiet, we are with each other – not because we don’t want to be heard, but because our nearness provides us with each other’s undivided attention.
I think that we have a tendency to look past God as we gaze at the distant horizons of culture, politics or disasters. We are trying to listen for thunder and watch for lightning all the while the Lover of our souls is close enough to touch and near enough that we would feel His breath on our hearts if we’d pay attention.
At seven and three years old, my kids are hardly subtle when they want attention. They have the ability to repeat the word “daddy” so many times that the syllables lose their meaning as a word in the English language. And if I don’t turn to give them my undivided focus they, undaunted as knights on a mission from their king, will come closer and closer until they are sitting on me, hanging off of me or causing me to trip over them.
But sometimes things get dire, and these children are obsessed with obtaining my attention. In those heightened circumstances they will come to wherever I am sitting, take my cheeks in their hands, turn my face to their’s and press their nose against mine. In that position they no longer need to yell, they don’t have to try and climb up my leg and beg, or even cajole me with gift upon handmade gift. No, in that face-to-face moment we speak to each other in whispers and hear each other with perfect clarity.
I wonder if, while we are preparing ourselves for shouting and booming or thunder and rumbling, God is all along nose-to-nose with us, speaking His truth, His grace and His love in hushed tones, like a Father and His child. Maybe it would be enough for us to simply try and find some time to hush ourselves, hush our lives and listen for the holy whispers that have been there the whole time.