By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 6, 2017
I was walking in a wooded area of the neighborhood, when I heard a man’s voice calling something, over and over, down in the grassy valley. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, but there was an urgency in his tone.
Then I spotted a brown dog running down the block at full speed toward me—but his interest was definitely elsewhere.
He swiftly climbed down the steep slope leading to the valley—and I could see him racing through the green grass.
I realized the dog had been lost, and the man had been calling his name, for who knows how long. And although I couldn’t see the reunion, I envisioned a brown blur speeding toward the man and then leaping into his arms.
The dog knew the man’s voice, despite the distance between them—and even if I couldn’t decipher the words, the animal heard its name.
My father had a special way of whistling when he wanted his girls to return home from our neighborhood adventures.
Perhaps we were riding our bikes, playing games drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, or galloping around the yard, pretending we were horses.
My father would stand at the door and whistle, and call out, over and over, in a singsong way forever imprinted on my heart: “Rosemary! Lorraine!” And when we heard him calling, we would drop everything and head home.
One of my favorite hymns is “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say,” which describes a person who is weary, worn and sad.
In the hymn, Jesus says, “Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast.”
But how do we recognize Jesus’ voice amidst the din of everyday life—the tweets and ringtones, traffic, chainsaws—and the ongoing chatter in our own heads?
In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis wrote that the real problem of Christian life comes the moment we awaken each morning.
“All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
On a typical morning, my own wild animals rush at me and roar: “You must water the orchids, send off that column and get groceries.”
All day long, they stalk me: “Vacuum the house, do the laundry, feed the birds.”
Sometimes I imagine it would be easier to hear God’s voice if I were a cloistered nun—but really, I know myself well enough to imagine what that would be like.
“Today’s sweeping day, and the broom is in terrible shape. You’ll have to ask Mother Superior for a new one. And please don’t fall asleep during morning prayers!”
I long to hear God’s voice, but how do I approach him?
In his insightful book “Beginning to Pray,” Anthony Bloom recommends memorizing biblical passages that move us deeply, so they become part of us.
A day may come, he notes, when you are so “completely low, so profoundly desperate that you cannot call out of your soul any spontaneous expression.”
At that moment, he says, these passages will come back to you as a gift from God.
So we can sit quietly, breathe deeply—and let scriptural passages sweep gently over us.
We can picture ourselves in an emerald valley, rushing through the tall grasses, trying to reach someone who’s calling our name, over and over.
When we finally reach him, we throw ourselves into his arms, lay our head upon his breast—and hear those glorious words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Artwork (“Proclaiming the Kingdom,” oil painting) by Jef Murray. Lorraine Murray’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.