I believe that God speaks to us in many ways. It might be through quiet joyfulness over a chosen path; a door of opportunity opening unexpectedly; a gentle and encouraging word spoken by friend or stranger; a idea we cannot dismiss. I myself have heard what I call the voice of God in all these ways and in one more: I have been yelled at.
Twelve years ago I took an orchestration class at the University of Minnesota as I began doctoral studies. One of the requirements of the course was to compose assignments for the instruments we were studying. I was excited and apprehensive, since I have always had a secret desire to compose. Very early on in the course I was convinced that God was calling me to compose an organ piece, my first such effort. I don’t remember exactly how I knew this, but I was sure. Then, as now, I talked back to God: “I don’t know how to write an organ piece – you have to help me.”
I sat down to try to write something, and soon was gifted with an idea. I wrestled and pleaded (and generally was an annoying disciple) through the entire process of composing a short piece and after about a month, I was nearly finished.
That fall that I started at the U was when my husband and I began to direct the music at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, a grand and glorious building that looms above the city of Saint Paul with a vivid reminder of the presence of God through stone and marble, icon and fresco, artwork and reverberation. It is a building one enters with awe, voice suddenly unable to rise above whisper. In the twelve years I have worked at the Cathedral I can count as rare the times I have heard anyone shouting or raising their voice to speak (excluding the occasional emotionally disturbed visitor).
As I sat the organ console in the loft, working to finish my piece, I couldn’t decide whether to resolve the last chord and end with a sense of completion and finality, or keep the chord unresolved and questioning. I played the piece though six or seven times, first resolving the chord, then not. I still couldn’t decide.
Then I heard a voice, shouting: “Organist!!!! Don’t resolve that chord!!
Goosebumps went up and down my spine and I slowly turned around to see a man waving his hat at the front of the Cathedral, shouting. “Organist!! I’m a Lutheran pastor from XXXX (I couldn’t hear where he said he was from) and I say, don’t resolve that chord!!
I turned around to regain my composure and when I turned around again, he was gone.
I continue to be inspired by God in unusual and sometimes funny ways, but I’ve never been shouted at again. I’ve learned to listen a little better, perhaps! Oh, and I didn’t resolve the chord.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.