by Joanie Butman


During a Pilates class last week my friend kept jumping up to check her phone. Puzzled because none of us heard anything to alert her of incoming texts, we asked if everything was all right. She apologized profusely explaining that her daughter was home sick. Once she brought it to our attention, we did notice the next very soft beep.

Mother’s instinctively recognize their children’s cry. That ability is innate in humans and animals alike. With the invention of the cell phone, personalized ringtones have brought this ability into the digital age. If I were to assign one to my son, it would definitely be the Chipotle jingle because it is his home away from home; and with few exceptions, his calls revolve around food. My daughter’s would resemble the sound of the Vitamixer whipping up her newest smoothie.

This incident brought to mind a question that was posed in Bible study recently. A member inquired as to how Jesus communicates with us. I’d say His ringtone is individualized for everyone. The challenge is discovering yours. The person asking the question lamented that he was discouraged because all he gets is static. I can totally relate to his frustration because it took me years to establish a good spiritual connection, and depending on what’s going on in life, static is always looming, threatening a disconnection. It takes enormous discipline to create a sacred space amidst the barrage of noise and information most of us are bombarded with daily. 

Everyone responded in different ways, but stillness of mind was an important component that everyone agreed upon. The second essential ingredient was to acquaint yourself with Christ through scripture. You can’t expect to recognize the voice of someone you don’t know. When you get to know His character, His voice gets louder in your life. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Sheep may follow blindly but not many humans do. Most of us only choose to follow someone we can trust, someone who has our best interests at heart. Building that trust takes time and effort.

Even so, sometimes trying too hard can be the very thing that causes us to miss Him among the static of our own efforts. Often we just need to be still and let Him find us. If you’re feeling frustrated by static, why not choose to turn down the volume and quiet your soul. Choose to trust that He will show up when you least expect it in unexpected ways. It might be through other people or in a dream, through a devotional or an unexplained prompting to do something out of your comfort zone. It could be a healing, or maybe even a blog. The possibilities are endless. There is a parenting guru who suggests, “If you want your kids to listen to you, don't yell at them. Whisper. Make them lean in.” I believe this is a favorite divine strategy, which is why so many of us don’t always hear Him.

There are some who make it a habit to keep a record of what they hear. Rick Miller describes how when his brother “hears a whisper, he pulls his truck over and starts writing what God puts on his heart. He fills up a spiral notebook a week with some of the most beautiful spirit-filled poems and thoughts. We joke that he needs a bumper sticker, CAUTION - I STOP FOR GOD’S WHISPERS. Gene turned me on to not only listening for God’s whispers, but also staying obedient to what they tell your heart. I have slowly learned that when I hear such a whisper in my heart to act on it and not debate it. And the blessings have flowed.”

Despite the claim that Jesus called them on their cell phones in the Altar Boyz’ song The Calling, I’ve never experienced a cellular message from the divine. Oh, if it was only that simple. If I were to assign Christ a ringtone, Amazing Grace would be the obvious choice as I think it most closely captures the essence of his character. I have a reputation for not answering my cell phone, but that one I could never choose to blatantly ignore as I am sometimes known to do with the Chipotle calls from my son. When I explained only to call in case of emergency, I didn’t think hunger qualified as one; but then again, I’m not a teenage boy.

Spiritual hunger, on the other hand, would definitely qualify as an emergency. If I’m honest, I’d have to admit there are times when I purposely choose static because I don’t necessarily like what I’m hearing. Perhaps it would require a change I’m not willing to make, so I choose to ignore the whisper. I can tell you one thing with certainty, when I hear static or silence at the end of the line, it’s always me who’s disconnected not Him. It’s a moment-to-moment choice to answer His calling or not. Choose wisely.