When I Don't Like God's Tone
It happens every year, and I usually make some sort of half-hearted resolution to stay away from it. Somewhere around November, as the crispy Illinois atmosphere begins to move from crispy to crunchy and we feel that marrow-splitting wind accelerating to ramming speed, I say this one phrase:
I'm not going to complain about winter this year.
It is an honorable act, sure, something that would probably make my life better if I made good on the commitment. So I try. Then the day comes where I'm throwing snow off the driveway for the third time in the last 24 hours, and my effort begins to cool - literally.
Last week, the early morning hours called me to my chair in our living room. To pray. To search. To listen. It does make sense to seek God in a recliner, if I can add a side note here.
As I prayed through Psalm 19, pausing to look out the window and consider what the Psalmist was saying, something interesting occurred. A disconnect was reconnected, a fracture was reset - with all the pain and crashing of a bone being realigned within a neighborhood of muscle and veins. A very painful family reunion took place.
The Psalmist says,
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is to heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Ps. 19:1-4a, NRSV)
I stared at my enemy, piles and piles of white frozen moisture that had fallen victim to a head on collision between cold air masses and hot air masses.
The heavens made this. The firmament was basecamp for this snowy assault. And now, it was speaking to me.
I know so many people who are longing, thirsting, agonizing and weeping over the absence of God's voice. If only God would speak, if only God would say something to me here, if only...
I realize that there's typically a very specific piece of advice or instruction we're looking for when we beg the God of heaven to vibrate the divine vocal chords for a moment, and yet here in front of us there's a pile of words. Wordless words, as the Psalmist says, or as the great songwriter Alison Krauss has said, "You say it best/when you say nothing at all."
You see, sometimes I miss God speaking because I don't like his means. His method. The "tone" of His frosty "voice."
God's creation, the firmament and the fruit that comes from it, reminds a stormy and dissatisfied people that because God has created He has spoken. The wisdom of snow is the moisture that feeds deep, thick roots that lead to the green grass and leaves that draw my spirit upward and outward, like a man pardoned from execution and drawing his first breaths of air without the threat of death.
Without the wisdom of God speaking this way, I'd miss the thing that is glory to me. To creation. to the world.
Snow is the speech of God. Even in pain we hear the speech of God. Heat and wind are the speech of God in motion.
The reality of God speaking is not dependent on our approval of His means.
So I settled in, put on another layer and listened. I longed for the final stanza of Psalm 19 to be true of me, even when the snowblower won't start - when I tracked a mix of watery slush and sidewalk salt into my house - when the bitter wind clips my nostrils and ears, forcing me to squint and duck my head.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NRSV)
Speak Lord - no matter how - your servant is listening.