It is with more than a bit of trepidation that I begin this series of posts about “the Voice.” On the one hand, I truly want to think of myself as sane (and do), yet finding little literature on this topic and even fewer people with similar experiences (most of them dead) makes me wonder if I truly am. On the other hand, I am still a relatively new convert, who is still trying to learn how I am “supposed” to behave with God. There is much I do not know or understand. In the interim, while I am still learning (which may take many years), I do know that God did something extraordinary for me. He let me feel His presence very distinctly, so I now feel comfortable and comforted going to Him for absolutely everything and listening or watching for His response. Perhaps, then, the Voice is not such an unexpected thing, after all.
The first time I heard the Voice, what was happening did not hit me, or according to the closest Russian equivalent of “I did not realize,” “ya ne davala sebe otchet” (lit. I did not give myself a reckoning) of what had happened. It was at the beginning of the 2-week period that resulted in my conversion, a period in which I felt caught in a cosmic nutcracker. Since all was so surreal during that time, I suppose I just added the Voice to the list of otherworldly phenomena I was experiencing.
As I was strenuously fighting the very idea that there might be an all-powerful supernatural force that people from various religions call God, I became angry with this Supreme Supernatural. “If You exist,” I cried out, “You could have helped my children. Why were they born with birth defects if You are all-powerful and can affect life on this planet?”
Very quietly but distinctly, an otherworldly Voice that I have described elsewhere as less than a voice and more than a thought pronounced just two words: “Read Job.” Although it took me a while to realize that I was being referred to a book in the Bible and then more time to find a Bible — atheists do not typically stock Bibles on their home-library shelves, in Job, indeed, I found the answer to my outcry. (You can read the answer I found here on Mahlou Musings, where I posted it some time ago.)
The second time I heard the Voice, I was still in the cosmic nutcracker period of my life, and again I did not pay any particular attention to the Voice being a supernatural phenomenon since everything I was experiencing at the time was supernatural. Moreover, I was fighting that supernatural influence that would not let go of me with every piece of logic and hard-science-factual information that I could find.
My friend, Jean, with whom I was corresponding at the time was on the receiving end of many an angry e-mail, filled with my thrashing-about-rants while caught in that cosmic nutcracker. Why Jean? Because she was with me when I demanded that God, if He existed, reveal Himself. (I thought I would then be able to say to Jean, “See? No God!”) I never dreamt that there would immediately be an unseen third party at our restaurant table Whom we both strongly felt and Whose presence brought such confusion to both our minds (for differing reasons) that neither of us could eat; we left the food behind and followed the Presence to the beach where we talked until the middle of the night, Jean not wanting to miss out on any time with such an overwhelmingly present Presence and I definitely not wanting to be alone with what I was sensing. Jean told me later that the barrage of e-mails she received from me was the equivalent of an electronic temper tantrum. I suppose that is as good a description as any of my reaction to being caught in the cosmic nutcracker.
In the midst of my thrashing about, I heard that same laconic, otherworldly Voice calmly but firmly say, “Read about Solomon.” When I finally tracked down, after a number of failed attempts, the specific information to which I assumed I was being referred (Thank God for online, searchable Bibles, which I had discovered by then), it made eminent sense. In the story of Solomon’s life, as told in the book of Ecclesiastes, I found many parallels with my own attitudes, parallels that I began to take to heart. (More details are given in my conversion story, linked above.)
Why I listened to that Voice while convinced, or at least wanting to stay convinced, that God does not exist, I cannot explain. But I did listen, and that has made a great difference in my life.