The walker’s earbuds go quiet, and the voice of God speaks—or does it?
By George Valadie
It was a recent Thursday morning, about 11:30 give or take, and it seemed like as good a day and time as any for a miracle.
I mean one of those really big ones. The sort you only read about in Scripture or the life of some saint. The kind that results in a statue being built on a site to which believers will flock in the future. One of those kinds of miracles.
And I was just sure it was today.
Let me preface all this by mentioning that in my newfound retirement days, I have decided to walk—a lot. Some days I go to the Y to log my minutes and miles, but most days I lace up and set out to trek through our neighborhood. It’s really the perfect place.
I always want to work up a good sweat, so our blend of up-and-down hills—none too drastic—does the job every time.
Some 260-plus homes dot my subdivision walk, the equivalent of three miles and 10 blocks. Not one will be featured in Southern Living, but they’re nice and well-kept, with plenty of expansive old trees providing welcomed shade when the sweating part kicks in.
I never fail to bring along my phone with earbuds tuned to Pandora. It’s a wonderful free app that figures out the sort of music you like and plays a bunch of it non-stop. You provide it a head start, and off it goes from there.
So when I’m out exercising, it’s usually me, James Taylor, and a bunch of his friends along for the walk.
On that recent Thursday morning, the sun was out, the breeze was fall-ish, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Perfectly peaceful since the kids were back in school, and most moms and dads were back at work.
It was just me and my music playing until suddenly it didn’t. And my earphones fell silent.
Though it was a silence quickly filled with thoughts and ideas that began exploding through my head in rapid-fire succession.
Apparently, there are scientists—more than a few—who study what they call the speed of thought. I don’t know a thing about it, but apparently it can happen in milliseconds, just one of which is one-twentieth of a second.
In other words, thoughts can fly fast and furious, some say as much as 250 mph. They sure did for me.
So there I was, walking on the block next to ours, singing along to “Sweet Baby James” when the music ceased and my thoughts—weird though they may be—kicked in to fill the void.
Where they came from, I do not know. But almost instantaneously my brain started walking down the path of:
“I’ve always wanted God to talk to me. To really talk to me. He used to talk to a lot of people. I mean He spoke to Adam, Cain, and Noah, Moses, Samuel, and Saul. Why not me?
“I mean how cool would that be? And an iPhone would be the perfect mode of communicating these days.
“I’m guessing He’d probably want me to do something bold or unusual. I could be up for that. Or maybe spread a message for Him like in that old George Burns movie ‘Oh God!’
“His timing really is perfect because I’m retired now and have plenty of free time (like if He had asked when I was working, I’d have had to say no.)
“I wonder if he’s getting ready to reach out now, turning off the music to get my attention.”
Just then a tiny bit of raspy crackling came through my earphones. The sort of crackling that recalled that movie “Apollo 13” when Houston Control was anxiously waiting to hear from the space capsule after re-entry. That sort of crackling.
“OMG, I mean it’s probably my WiFi going in and out but how neat would it be if He’s trying to tune me in. Makes sense, it’s a long way from heaven, and this would be the perfect place for Him to reach out. Nobody around. I can talk back, and if anyone sees me they’d simply think I’m just singing along with J.T.”
And then . . . it happened.
I’m not lying—at that exact moment a voice came from nowhere and spoke in my earphones. No phone call, no text ping, no warning. I hadn’t touched a button, hadn’t touched the phone.
There was just a voice asking, “George?”
During the microsecond it took for the speaker to utter my name, my heart flipped and fluttered while my brain tried to decipher what was unfolding. I mean I’d only been thinking foolish thoughts, hadn’t I?
Still, feeling a mix of fear and hope, I replied with what could only be described as a timid and meek little “Yes?”
Followed by “Hey, just wanted you to know I’m running to the store, so I’ll be gone for a bit if you get home anytime soon.”
Like I said: no call, no text, no warning. Where did she come from? How did she do that? Her call had somehow stopped my music, but that wasn’t exactly the miracle for which I’d been hoping.
There will no doubt be a price I’ll pay when she reads it took all of a second or two to go from happily humming to being hugely unhappy to hear the voice of my wife.
But it wasn’t the voice of God.
We shared quite the laugh when I retold my tale.
And then I pondered the voice of God.
Wondering if or when or how He really does speak to me. To us.
Does he use the people He puts in our lives—the ones who love us or the ones who challenge us? The ones who make us better or the ones who call us to be better? Family, friends, co-workers? They’re no doubt gifts from God, but are they also sent from God?
Or does He reach out through the people we should let into our lives: the neighbors or neighborhoods we avoid, the family we’ve discarded, or the guy on the corner with the empty cup and not much else?
I’m absolutely sure He talks to us, but I won’t lie—I’d have much preferred the big miracle, the direct instruction, the clarity that would have come from a one-on-one with me and the Creator.
I’d have done whatever He asked.
Or has He asked already?
Dear God—We’ll keep listening, please keep talking. Amen.
George Valadie resides in Chattanooga and is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church.