THESE words by Martin Wroe come from the small book When You
Haven't Got a Prayer (Lion, 1997). They certainly are a
prayer, but, as with many of Wroe's prayers and poems, they are
addressed to us as much as they are to God. He has a way of turning
things on their heads, playing with words, highlighting our
assumptions, and allowing us to rethink our certainties.
They say you're
on certain conditions. Quiet ones.
That if I can find an air of
It carries that still small voice.
But I don't do quiet,
I am not tranquil except when
I am asleep
And then I am not available
As far as I know.
So, what's the chance of a
big voice in the noise,
Of hearing you in the roaring
The screaming mealtime,
The crowded train,
The supermarket queue,
The smoky, throbbing bar?
I know that time you
in the fire, the storm.
But everyone's different.
Maybe Elijah was better at
You're usually quiet.
I'm usually wired.
If I try for your silence,
Perhaps you could try for my
Your place or mine?
I know they say you're in
But maybe we could meet
in town. . .
Martin Wroe (b.
I know the author. He is wired. The other members of a committee
of which he was a member resorted to giving him a football to play
with, to keep him from jiggling his feet and distracting
proceedings. Yet he is a brilliant ideas person - so wired that he
can be relied on to spark off in all directions. He personifies the
kind of creativity we cannot do without.
I am sure he is not alone. For every quiet contemplative among
us, there are at least as many noisy extroverts. We have been
blessed with both. So how is it that we have come to ascribe more
spiritual value to one, at the expense of the other?
Does God really prefer the quiet, the secret, the understated,
the calm? One glance at creation tells us otherwise. Thunder and
lightning, the clash and scrape of tectonic plates, volcanoes
exploding, the thundering hooves of migrating wildebeest, rooks
settling for the night, piranhas attacking a carcass - it is a
cacophonous, exhilarating world.
Jesus may have praised Mary for her attentiveness, but he talked
to action-woman Martha about resurrection and eternal life -
arguably one of the most important exchanges with a disciple that
we have on record.
I know that it is important to give ourselves time to hear God.
There is a call to carve out space in a busy life to be attentive
to him, and I agree that we need to take this call seriously. But I
also think that this prayer is asking us to be ourselves, and not
to try to inhabit the "religious" persona that we have been
encouraged to adopt. We should be able to distinguish his voice,
however it comes to us.
So here we have a plea for a voice in among the everyday
noisiness of life. I think that I heard that voice myself, not long
ago. I was dashing along a city street, burdened with too much to
do, worried and distracted. The words "Come unto me and I will give
you rest" popped into my mind. I didn't do anything about it - I
didn't have time. But I heard it, nevertheless, and it made a big
difference to my ability to cope.
So this is a prayer for the noisy half of the world. Do use it,
if that's you.
Meryl Doney is a writer and freelance fine-art