I think all of us who love and follow Jesus truly wish we could hear His audible voice. The sound of it must not be terribly different than any other human voice, but we yearn for the certainty that He is the one speaking and not simply that all too clever voice in our own heads, or worse, the voice of the Enemy. I have been feeling such a yearning for no less than a year, and while I know more or less where God wants me and the Bible certainly tells me what to do, I nonetheless feel I have not heard God as much as in past times. I have definitely not heard Him as much as I want. Likely, as with most things, the problem is me. Then again, God does seem to value silence.
So silence it was and I figured silence it would continue to be as I sat on a ferry to the Honduran island of Utila, thankful to be done with the eight-hour drive to the coast. We opted for first-class ferry seats in the air-conditioned interior because they were not much more and motion sickness did not seem worth it having heard horror stories of the “vomit comet.” I was seated directly in front of a blasting vent and it was freezing, so I didn’t get the nap I had wanted, which is no shame at all. The weather was nice and just a bit rainy with a storm behind us and blue skies ahead. A double rainbow slowly appeared in the pink clouds to the East out my window as the sun mozied behind bright orange clouds to the West. The water moved up and down with the currents, but the surface was an unbroken deep blue like a glass you could only hope to see beyond. As we continued I thought about the vast array of creatures, mountain ranges, valleys, and unknown wonders beneath the glassy surface. One of my favorite classes in high school was marine biology so I knew about what might be down there, but still, I remained completely ignorant of the other world so close I could smell the saltiness.
Utila is a place full of openness and everyone we met was super kind. Two especially kind fellows who were there to attain their scuba certification on the second largest reef in the world told us the best place to snorkel on the island. We did not have enough time to get certified and enjoy the reef properly, but I desperately wanted a chance to see below the surface! I had no idea what awaited me. Lindsey, Josh, Jackie, and I rented our snorkel gear, put on our funny flippers, and hopped into the ocean. Once I got over the fear of just sinking I was at peace to swim around. We swam out there for at least an hour as the insane beauty of the reef astounded us at every turn. There were rocks that looked like they should be plants and plants blew in the current as if in the wind yet were shapes and colors I have never seen on land. Dozens of different fish species swam unbothered all around us in shades of purple, gray, yellow, green, and an almost iridescent glow in the dark sort of blue that clothed a tiny little fish who liked to hide inside the coral. There were squids, long skinny fishes with funny noses, and I was the only one who got to see an eagle ray. He floated away at a quick pace into the deeper water on the edge of the reef where it’s impossible to see into the depth of blue. I was so excited to show Lindsey that I popped out of the water to look for her instead of watching it longer, but it was awesome anyway.
In order to rest as I floated along, I focused on the sound of my breathing and somewhere in that cadence I realized – God was speaking. Not with the words I thought I craved to hear from Him but with beauty and glory so majestic it shut up any words I could think or even use now to describe His inaudible visual voice. I asked and He answered. Not when I wanted. Not how I thought I wanted. And He did not answer any of my burning questions. He just showed up and it sure shut me up, but not in a bad way – in the good sort of way my wife can shut me up when she is looking gorgeous. The strangest part of it all remains the fact that even with my body enveloped in the water I could not see any of that beautiful world without dropping my head below the surface and using goggles to see.
By degree, I am a philosopher so I am a lover of wisdom, but being a farmer by profession has taught me not to lay any claim to wisdom. I won’t pretend to have any wisdom now, but I will venture to at least leave you with a thought I myself am still thinking. I would reckon that though we might not even realize it, we are immersed in a spiritual reality far beyond anything we can imagine from our earthly physical view. I would also say what I think God was saying to me – He is doing so much more in the silence below the surface beautifully working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I wanted to hear His voice. I wanted to get answers to practical questions about the crazy world around me. I wondered what in the world God is doing. I had doubts and frustrations.
Y’all I sure don’t have any more answers than I did before, but I am confident in a God who works wonders beyond wonders below the surface, and I think I might just float in the hope that brings.