Have you ever stood in the front row at a concert, under the speaker, where you can feel the power of the bass drum pound at your chest? Have you felt a deafening crack of thunder pulse through the air and still your heart for a second? Do you know that feeling? That was it. But it wasn’t a drum. It could have been thunder, but it wasn’t. As a powerful boom hit the chests of each person strolling through the park, the entire world stopped. In a held breath all speech ceased, every foot heavy in a frozen stance. “Was that…” eyes searched the sky frantically, and as quickly as it froze the moment broke free into total chaos. “Yes. Run.”
In the park’s public restroom the air was thick with anticipation. Fear was screaming in the silence. There were far too many people crowded into a small cement box in the desert’s mid-summer heat.
Now, as a faint whisper in the distance, a siren sounded. Yeah, thanks for the warning. A muffled voice uttered hasty words in a foreign language over a loud speaker. It wasn’t over. Every one stared, wide-eyed, at the cold stone walls as if at any second they could come alive, the sunlight and desert sand bursting in from behind them.
Dear friends surfaced, shaken. Their young children all sorts of reacting. A still small voice in my heart compelled me, but what could I possibly do, little more than a child myself? We didn’t even speak the same language.
A gentle smile, an outstretched hand, conscious breaths. The boys were a bit confused as I sat them each in a sink. Comforted by the cool running water, they gave their attention. Toilet paper in hand, their fear turned to curiosity as we used water to wad it up. Their curios eyes lit up as I stepped back and held the trash bin high for a game. As the first “ball” soared into the basket the purest sound of delight rose from the sickening silence. A gentle breath flowed through the crowd. The walls on which every eye had been fixed seemed to move a little further away.
A massive cockroach fell from the basket, brushing my hand on its way to the ground; I jumped and looked up at the boys who were laughing so hard that their laughs had become nearly silent, my expression exclaiming “Did you see that?!” We all laughed. Despite the situation in which we found ourselves, awe overtook me as a still, small voice spoke peace into my soul when and where peace didn’t make any sense.
I didn’t know, then, that that peace was a gift from a loving, personal God who heard and responded to what I didn’t yet know was a prayer. It’s important to look back and see how He began calling our hearts of stone out of their darkest of hardened places, to remember His faithfulness through the years.
I was 16 and volunteering at a guest house and community center in northern Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah War. I had gotten used to shrapnel sprinkling the fields along the roads on the way to the market and singing or playing cards in the reinforced bathrooms at the siren’s sounding throughout the day. But that day we had traveled south, far from the line of missile range, for a day of rest in the park. It was our Sabbath, sacred. Long-range missiles were aimed at an army base on the mountain above us from Lebanon. They missed.
War. It changes people. Whether the war raging around you literally means bombs falling from the sky or tests and trials in other forms, God is speaking. Listen to the undercurrent of peace beneath the resounding booms of chaos. His still small voice is beckoning your heart to draw closer to Him, to focus on the One who is bigger, the One who hears and is answering your cries.
Maybe that’s why I love sleeping under the stars in the holy land, walking the shore of the Galilee. Rich in history, they know. The same God, the same me, growing and walking through amazing days and adventures, but somehow, when I’m there, my world understands. It’s as though the earth itself remembers the touch of his feet and moves, even if every so subtly, with the reminiscent longing and expectation of His return.