how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth

words

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I debated about starting a blog for a long time.

a really long time.

I even wrote a fake blog post about why I decided to start a blog, and then saved it on a file on my computer that stayed untouched for over a year. It was full of attempts to be funny (which I’m not very good at) and clever inserts to show I had the pulse of the blogging world (which I don’t), and when I went back and read it there were aspects that still rang true, while others were sickeningly self-glorifying, which fed the fire of one of my biggest blogging hesitations. So the file went back into hiding and the blog idea was shelved once again. Even now I hesitate in this step; for prideful reasons, no doubt, but also some that are most likely legitimate. Perhaps it seems, in the massive anonymity of the internet, this should not be such a big deal. That may be true. But there is a reason that makes it such for me; the same reason that finally pushed me over the edge into the blogging world – the power of words.


I have a deep appreciation for a lot of things in life, but high in the list, I love words: spoken, read, written, sung…words in all varieties. Even if they were only a bare means of communication, stripped of all other function, they would be astounding for that alone, but their true impact is so much greater. Breath may be the means by which we sustain life, but words contain it. They have the unique power to affirm, inspire, encourage, and push people in directions they never would have ventured without them. Yet also, the fire that is the tongue comes equipped with a terrifying power to cut down and destroy in a single, often careless, phrase, that which has taken years to build. (oh “set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth…”) We learn from words, and teach through them. We strive to express feeling. We are transported by the words of poetry and literature into worlds and emotions we have never ourselves experienced. We even attempt, with words, to represent the experiences of our senses.

Here, the incredible limitation of words suddenly breaks into our vision. It is why a written description of the color of aspen trees in the fall will never have to impact of a photograph, and how two people with no common language can share emotion and be understood. It is why we search for better expressions to convey sorrow or love than through the cliché phrases of our society, and in the most powerful of moments can stumble into nothing more than, “I’m at a loss for words.”

In the Christian faith words carry another layer of significance when we realize two things: 1) that Christ was described as the Word, and 2) that God left for us primarily words; a book; to communicate the truths of His nature, the history of His people, and how to live in this world. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,” Hebrews 1 writes, “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…”

God spoke to us. He communicated, when the Israelites thought all word from God had fallen silent, by a person who is called the Word (John 1). But then, having accomplished His purpose, the human person of Christ left this earth and returned to heaven, and perhaps it seemed like God was silent once again. But God did not leave His people without a message, contained in a book is God-breathed; a book that promises to teach us how to live and equip us completely for it. Our assurance lies in that phrase: God-breathed. If Scripture is not from God, it is nothing. And if the words of Scripture are not true, we are lost. Then they are simply words in their ultimate exercise of futility: trying to portray an indescribable God.

The world does not understand this. After all, they’re just words. It’s just a book. Yes, it is a book, a book inspired by God; who opens our eyes to understand it; and it is filled with words that are true, and the primary means with which God communicates and teaches us until our lives come to an end. That is what grants them influence, why I love them so deeply.

However, they are still words, trapped in the constructs of language, culture, and translation, which God is not. Job said it this way:

“Indeed, these are the mere edges of His ways, and how faint a whisper we hear of Him.
But the thunder of His power, who can understand?”
Job 26:14

How faint a whisper. All these words; the history and constructions of the communication of man, and even the Word of God with its Spirit-filled power; will fade to a whisper in the face of the reality that is the full presence of God. And this truth extends beyond words to all that they represent as well. In context, these words of Job are speaking of nature demonstrating God’s power. After an impassioned dialogue describing God’s powerful control over specific aspects of nature, Job ends with this verse, this thought. All that he has just finished describing is only the beginning. It is only the edges of the Lord, only a faint whisper of His power. There is life-giving wonder in this verse. In it is contained both the hope for life and the hope beyond it.

Everything in this life – every good gift, every moment of joy, every activity given to us to enjoy, every person we love, every breath of every day of life – it is from God. It is His whisper. However, it is just the edges; just the fringes of who God is and all that eternity holds! It is easier to believe this in life’s hard moments while astonishingly huge to grasp in life’s joys, and at all moments humbling.

I think we’re meant to live this life fully, while holding it loosely. We’re meant to dream and press on and love and wonder. We’re meant to search for and see Him in the simple things: in nature and sport; in learning, thinking, producing and creating; in emotions and relationships and words. All that is good in life will be realized in perfection in eternity, while all that is lost will be not only found, but redeemed. After all, He is the author of all that is good (James 1:17)! This is what makes every moment of life an extraordinary gift: the inherent eternal promise it holds. The everyday moments of life are filled with faint whispers of His presence and His glory.

I want to live my life in the wonder of this realization. And because words are my love, I want to capture some of it along the way. That is all this is, really: a chance to express and share some of life’s joys, some of God’s whispers in my life through literature, media, nature, music, relationships, thoughts, and most of all, His living and active Word. Because I want to have eyes that see, and remember, and praise, and capturing it in word is one (though by no means the only one) means to that end. Insofar as my words are an accurate interpretation, may you hear His whispers, and whenever they are not, may they slip away unheeded.

In an often quoted passage, Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it this way,

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

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