God in a Voice
The soprano’s voice soared. For a few minutes, the church was perfectly still but for that pure sound — no throat clearing, bulletin rustling, not even an infant being hushed. Are even babies enraptured by this music, I wondered? That alone would be some kind of miracle. For during the hymn, it felt as though whatever theological place any one of us occupied at that moment, we all were experiencing God while the soprano sang.
Interest in religion is certainly booming. But for all the interest, there is a corresponding lack of proof. Here is what I believe. As I listened to the soloist, I believed God had to be somewhere in my church. But what did that mean? I spend a lot of time these days thinking about God. I hear a beautiful voice and even though I know it did not happen by accident – it took years of training, practice, and hard work – nevertheless, it moves me in a way that I have to call God. But if God is in a beautiful voice, is God also in my friend Mark’s agonizingly slow death from cancer?
These are ancient questions and no easier to answer today than when Job asked them. The fact is, we either are or are not creatures of God, but we cannot prove either. This is where faith enters the picture and to believe in God takes finally a big chunk of faith. I want to believe, because I want to feel that when my friend is released from his pain and dies, he will open his eyes in a place of transforming warmth and love, he will be safe and cared for, he will be with God.
But I am a skeptic by nature. So this is the peace I have made with myself. I go to church because it comforts me, because while I am in church I feel a fellowship with others, and it seems very possible to me that collective worship of any nature makes a real difference in our universe. I believe that we all experience moments of grace, sometimes collective, sometimes individually. This is when we know “God.” I understand that some people feel the need to defend their own understanding of God in more detail. But defending too often leads to conflict and war. If there is a God, would he want that?
The hard truth is that whatever God is, in however we experience his presence, we will never be able to prove him. To know God in moments of grace – in a baby’s first smile, a loved one’s voice, in acts of kindness and courage– that has to be enough for me. And to quarrel with one another about matters that require faith is not something that I believe God would sanction.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.