That’s what the hymn says, the last few lines of “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. But on reading today’s passage, I am less convinced. Oh, quite so, the Lord didn’t speak to Elijah though the wind or though the earthquake or through the fire, even though Elijah’s prayer for fire was answered 40 days before. Yes, the Lord spoke through the stillness.
But the message wasn’t of stillness and calm, the message was of conflict, endings, beginnings, death and destruction, survival. The message tells Elijah to act like a priest and prophet – to anoint new kings, to anoint his own successor. Anoint – to mark with oil. It’s one of those simple acts with a simple object which speaks volumes beyond itself. It is a sacrament, used in the Church of England to sign someone at their baptism (seldom still or calm in my experience), used to mark hands at ordination (and I didn’t feel still or calm then), to anoint someone at their confession or as they are dying (and although all may be outwardly still and calm then, the changes going on within are deeply profound).
We may well need to be still to hear the voice of God. But we are seldom called to do something which is still and calm – at least for us. Even if we manage to trust God to equip us for our calling, the challenges we face are immense, life changing, turbulent. Growing hurts. Growing up hurts. Changing is painful, and every so often we stop and ask “how much more?” We are reduced to Elijah’s state we read about yesterday, desperate for the basics of life. But I wonder how much we fool ourselves, each time we strive to “return to normal”.
That still, small voice calls us onward – do we follow?