The Still, Small Voice


VOICES | Issue: "Medical care circus" February 25, 2012

Just so happens

We can't control the future, but we can yield to the Spirit | Andrée Seu


It just so happens that the unraveling of Haman's plot began when the king could not sleep one night. This is the point at which things began to run in reverse—when the gallows erected for Mordecai were turned on his own neck, and the annihilation of the Jews became the annihilation of their enemies. Everything hinged on the reading of the records of the chronicles of the king on the occasion of a touch of insomnia.

I had not seen my mother for a few days, and love or conscience prompted me to go, though other tasks clamored for attention. In the course of our little visit, she mentioned the nice man who had spent the afternoon with her yesterday. What nice man? I inquired. Oh, just some man who wanted to talk about finances. He came last week, too, with a blond woman with beautiful teeth, and was coming again on Thursday.

When the state of the female caller's smile was the only information forthcoming from further probing—no name, no business card, no recall of what the duo were selling—and when I learned that my parents had never invited them over, and had splayed personal papers for their perusal, I went home and asked my kids what they thought. A suspicious lot, they thought the worst.

That was Tuesday. We devised a plan in which I would take my mother and dad out for coffee on Thursday afternoon, and my sons would be waiting in their apartment to greet the mystery man. As I observed three young men (the two plus a friend) get out of a car and cross the lawn with purposeful gait, I was glad I was not the visiting salesman. At 3:30 I got the call at Dunkin' Donuts that it was OK to come back, and that the fast-talking stranger would not bother us anymore.

Do not imagine cement shoes at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay or a dubious drive to the Pine Barrens. My sons politely asked for the man's card, and while one phoned the company to check him out, another went online to bone up on the organization, and found that the outfit was a hair's breadth on this side of legal, but had not one good review.

This story could go in many directions—the importance of family, the importance of obeying conscience, the importance of the internet, the necessity of caution with strangers, the prevalent problem of predators on the elderly. But the one I pick today is none of these. What sat up and practically bit me was this epiphany: I can do nothing to direct my path or to ensure my own well-being or prosperity or happiness, because I cannot see around corners; therefore I will obey the Holy Spirit all my life.

If that seems like an overreach from a mundane scam exposed on a Thursday afternoon, consider the import of these words: "A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?" (Proverbs 20:24). And these: "I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). My parents might have lost their nest egg by house call No. 3, and meanwhile I would have been neglecting them and ignoring the whispers of conscience, as I ran frantically to get control of my own life.

To reckon how utterly out of control we are regarding our personal futures is to surrender more contentedly to walking according to the unseen rather than the seen. To see how God blesses even a lackluster obedience is to be emboldened to trust Him more wholeheartedly next time. It is to take up the adventure of a life staked solely on the word of God. Abraham did that when he gave his nephew Lot first dibs on the land, and we see what ensued.

Line up your ducks in a row, if you please. But God sees beyond your row, and it will be better in the end, every time, for the person who yields to the still, small voice of the Spirit. For God is the Lord of the "just so happens."