I guess it was inevitable, since I keep hearing that sooner or later all of us will get Covid. My turn came this week, although so far it’s mimicking a bad head cold and nothing more. However, it came with an extremely sore throat, which has seriously impeded my ability to speak or sing. For someone who spends the entire day either talking to people or humming and singing, this is challenging.
Still, I’m grateful that it’s minor and hope it stays that way. I’ll deal with having to quarantine at home and rearrange my schedule. In the meantime, I’m fortunate that quarantining doesn’t mean being alone, because I live with two dogs who are good companions. One keeps a watchful eye on me all day, wanting to make sure that I don’t make any sudden moves towards snacks. She’d hate to miss out. And both want to make sure that in my wanderings around the house I don’t walk by without pausing to scratch them behind the ears.
I was thinking about the small but important things in life, especially about the ability to communicate, as I read the haftarah for this weekend. It’s from Jeremiah, a reluctant prophet who nevertheless stood up and proclaimed God’s word. But it wasn’t easy for him, and there were several times that he hesitated and doubted his ability to speak.
As a prophet, his job was to speak God’s word to the people. But that also meant having to listen carefully. My favorite passage about Jeremiah is in First Kings, when he went to Mt. Horeb, another name for Mt. Sinai, and spent the night in a cave. In the morning, God appeared to him:
“Come out,” God called, “and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And lo, the LORD passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake—fire; but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire—a still small voice. (I Kings 19:11-12)
A ferocious wind, earthquake, devastating fire. But God wasn’t in those big, dramatic moments. God was in the quiet moment after the storm. If Jeremiah wasn’t listening or paying attention, he may not have heard the voice at all.
That’s our conundrum when it comes to accessing God. We expect God to appear in all the vastness and drama of the world. Standing on a mountain top and seeing God’s glory spread out before us like a royal banquet. Surfing in the curl of a perfect wave, surrounded by crashing water but standing up in the bright sun. Holding a newborn baby for the very first time and trembling with the joy and wonder of new life.
Those moments are unique and uniquely moving. But they are fleeting and far between. For those of us who live quiet lives, going about our daily activities and spending time with family and friends (four-legged and two-legged) it is unusual to regularly access those huge emotions.
But when we pause and listen we might hear the still small Voice. It tells us we are unique and beloved. It reminds us of what is truly important. It asks us to be our highest selves, in the big moments and the small ones. It urges us to be a light unto the nations, each in our own small way. And it reminds us that pausing to pat a companion animal on the head is important too.