Finding Myself and God in a Still, Small Voice
Teenage chaos is inevitable. I speak from experience when I say, plenty of mistakes are made and it can be hard to find our voice. We don’t always know how to grow. We don't always know how to learn from our mistakes. For the first time, our questions don’t have answers. We have the intellect to acknowledge complex emotions, but we don’t have the words for them, or the experience to guide ourselves through them. It is incredibly confusing.
Teenage-hood is also a time of discovery. It’s exciting and painful. There is so much change, and all the uncertainty breeds questioning. Spirituality is the antidote for the emotional havoc that is so characteristic for this age. Spirituality is seeing the beauty in figuring things out, knowing that every mistake and every moment of discomfort can contribute to growth and happiness. However painful it may be, it is necessary to dive into the chaos in order to come back up having found, even a little bit, of our voice. Under the oppressive force to conform, often it is easier to recite a script manufactured by society rather than speak to our true and unclear feelings.
Struggling to find guiding voices is a common problem. In the biblical Book of Kings, Elijah, a prophet, is fleeing persecution and searching for revelation. His king has married a woman who is out to kill all prophets, and his fellow Israelites don’t do much to stop it. After a long journey with severe circumstances, he finds shelter in a cave. God asks: “why are you here, Elijah?" Elijah is slightly defensive in his response, stating: “I am here because I have been zealous for You!” God then tells him to step outside the cave and stand on the mountaintop. Elijah does so, expecting the divine revelation he feels he’s earned through his piety. A mighty storm rolls around, but within that might there is no God. A forceful earthquake rattles the ground, but the force is not Godly. An intense fire consumes the land, and even then God was not present. Elijah clings to the opening of the cave, in shock. And after all the powerful movement, a still small voice is heard. This is the voice of God.
Elijah stands out from his peers. He is not only a person; he is a prophet. I, like many other teenagers, often feel different too. Elijah is being hunted and doesn’t feel safe anywhere. I sometimes feel persecuted by popular styles that don’t fit my body and make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Elijah journeys through the desert, searching for salvation. I, along with my schoolmates, journey through the hallways, waiting for the bell to ring.
Through oppressive uniformity and confusion, amidst hot tears and overwhelming loneliness, I have found my voice. When I was thirteen, I was given a journal for my birthday. I expected that, like my previous journals, it would be filled with detailed accounts of my interactions with cute boys, lists of who my friends were, and drawings of dresses that I would someday make.
On one particularly overwhelming night, I broke down in tears. Out of the jumble of feelings, I was able to identify jealousy of my friend’s plans. After thinking about it, however, I realized that I would rather be me, even if it did not make me popular. Being able to put words to this feeling felt amazing, so I scribbled in my blank journal. It gave me power, knowing that I could process my pain, and maybe even grow from it. It gave me hope that I wouldn’t always be lost. That hope calmed me down.
This journal became my voice. Once I found my thoughts I could build on them; I could step back and then give myself advice. To begin with, this genuine voice of mine stayed in the journal. Bringing it out was intimate. If I shared my confusion and pain with my classmates, I was being intentionally vulnerable–I saw no point in doing that.
After years of pious journaling I see the beauty in sharing my honest, vulnerable self. Every night I pull out my journal and write. Sometimes I try to capture intense revelations of understanding that accompany my growth; other times I write about the simple beauty of the day. Like Elijah, I withstand the storm and I too, find a peaceful God in a still, small voice. It’s not always loud, but it’s damn powerful, reminding me that through struggle and pain, come understanding, growth, and even joy.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Abusch-Magder, Aliza. "Finding Myself and God in a Still, Small Voice." 27 January 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 13, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/finding-myself-and-god-in-still-small-voice>.