I know what the voice of God sounds like.
I heard it at church this morning when our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten age children led us in our prayer of confession as a part of our worship service celebrating our children. Five or six little munchkins stood at the front of the church and said together, “Let’s pray” with more energy than I’ve ever heard in such an invitation. Then, in unison, we all said:
God, we’re sorry for the things we did that were wrong. Help us love one another better. Help us love you better. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Then God spoke in the children’s voices:
God’s love is so big! We are forgiven! We get to try again! Thanks be to God!
And everyone said, “Amen.”
When I was a kid, Samuel was one of my favorite biblical characters. I loved the story of him going to wake up Eli because he thought the old man was calling him. When I pictured the priest, I saw him like my father who woke up in the night whenever my brother or I made a noise and then, as long as he was awake, would wander down the hall to the bathroom from which one of us was exiting because that was why we had made noise to begin with. In my mind, Eli was standing in the middle of the hall in his boxer shorts, his hair standing up in all directions, squinting and saying, “What are you doing up?”
“You called me,” Samuel said.
“You’re dreaming,” said the old man. “Go back to bed.”
When it happened a second time, I imagined Eli was a bit more perturbed and a little less sleepy. When Samuel came down the hall the third time, Eli was awake enough to realize what was happening.
“Samuel, you’re hearing a voice that’s not mine. The next time you hear it, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.’” (I learned the story from the King James.)
When I animated the story in my mind, I never had a clear idea how God sounded. I never really bought into the booming bass voice that blows out the woofers. And, I guess, I never spent a lot of time trying to imagine how God sounded at all. But this morning when the children proclaimed, “We are forgiven,” I knew that’s what God sounded like. I really felt forgiven.
When I caught up on my reading tonight, I found this wonderful poem at Anchors and Masts:
God Says Yes To Me
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
About three lines into this wonderful poem, I could hear the kids reading the words. “Yes, yes, yes,” is best said by energetic kindergarteners, don’t you think? Alongside of how it sounds, the voice of God reads like a Mary Oliver poem, for one. One of my favorites is her work simply titled, “Poem”:
likes to dress up like this:
shoulders, and all the rest
in the black branches,
in the morning
in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world,
and the dark hug of time,
to be understood,
to be more than pure light
where no one is —
so it enters us —
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;
and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.