I am attending a meeting of the Connectional Table of the United Methodist Church, and the hotel where we are staying has televisions blaring in the elevators. Really! The elevator has 3 large TV screens, with different shows on each screen, and one of the TV’s is always blaring news or sports or movies at you while you ride the elevator.

It seems a strange commentary on our American culture and our fear of silence. Apparently we can’t even ride a few minutes on an elevator without some music, and now a TV, to fill up the silence. Notice how many people can’t drive their cars or walk through the mall without a cell phone or iPod in their ears. We just can’t seem to handle the silence, even though we often complain about our busy schedules and hectic lives.

I wonder … what is it that we fear? Do we fear having to live with our own thoughts? Or do we, perhaps, unconsciously fear that we might actually hear the still, small voice of God? Actually that phrase – the “still small voice of God” – is a poor translation of the passage in I Kings where Elijah is hiding in the cave and waiting to hear from God. The prophet Elijah is scared, he has run away (even after a great victory over the so-called prophets of the false god Baal), and he is trying to find God. But God does not come to him in the wind, the fire, or the earthquake – all typical signs of God’s presence in the Old Testament. Instead, the text says that Elijah heard “the still, small voice of God.” Actually that phrase in Hebrew is better translated as “silence.” Elijah did not hear anything at all. It was only after the silence, that he finally heard God say to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah discovered he was not the only one being faithful to God, after all, and he was called by God to leave his safe little cave, to go back down the mountain, and to continue serving God.

But first came the silence … and then he was able to hear God.

I wonder, with TV’s in the elevators, loud music on our car radios, and cell phones in our ears, where will we find the silence to listen for God? Even in church we seem compelled to fill the silence with organ music, praise bands, or videos. But often God is found in the silence, the stillness, and the quiet when we put aside all the noise and distractions of life.

Listen for God this week … turn off the radio, cell phone, TV, blaring music, and even church music. Listen in the silence. Who knows? Without those other distractions, you may discover that God has been whispering to you all along.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner