Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
John Greenleaf Whittier
One evening a week, during term time, I meet with a small group of students who have formed a Christian Life Community (CLC). In an atmosphere of prayerful reflection we each share how the week has been for us, where we have found - or have struggled to find - God, and offer each other support for the journey.
This term, with the longer evenings, our silence has been filled with the singing of a nearby blackbird, lustily bidding farewell to the light. This week, though, there was an added extra: in the main chaplaincy hall a dance class was taking place, filling our room with loud bursts of dance music. And yet, miraculously, however loud the music (and at times it was LOUD!), we could still hear the birdsong. We didn't need to strain to hear it; it was simply there, throughout, providing a lyrical counterpoint whether to dance music or silence. It only faded, along with the last traces of daylight, as the clock struck nine.
That little bird sang to me so much of God: of the gentle breeze when all around is tumultuous gales (I Kings 19: 11-13); of that still small voice of calm in the midst of all the noise and stress which can otherwise so easily intrude on our lives and disquiet them. God was in the gentle breeze for Elijah, and God was in the birdsong for me, reminding me of his gentle, faithful presence in my life, regardless of whatever else may be happening and crowding in; reminding me, too, of the importance of prayer and inner silence, to help me hear that still small voice.
I found a blackbird singing on YouTube, so if you don't have a friendly blackbird nearby you can also hear what I heard, and be reminded of the God who sings in our souls, refusing to be drowned out by louder, more distracting sounds.