A Whisper in the Night

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I am a mother of three. As a mother I have learned to become very sensitive to the needs of another. Motherhood has heightened my senses. One of the most obvious examples is how I reacted to the sound of my babies crying. When they cried, they were either hungry or had terrible nightmares. I still respond immediately to the sound of my crying children, without any hesitation, even if it is in the middle of the night. I pick them up and whisper soothing words into their ears. When they were infants and toddlers I rocked them in my arms, singing lullabies until early in the morning.

I nursed all three of my children when they were babies. I held them in my arms as they nursed and watched their faces or caressed their legs and arms. I would kiss their little hands as they reached out to my face. The distance between the baby’s eyes and the mother’s face is the perfect distance for a baby’s vision to focus on the mother while breastfeeding. I felt great warmth and comfort during those times. Mother and child bond during a time when the greatest needs of a child’s life are met by receiving physical and emotional nourishment from the one person who is uniquely created to meet those needs.

When someone else held one of my babies, they would look around the room to see where I was. Since babies cannot see very well, they focus on the voice of their mother. As soon as my children heard my voice, they turned toward the direction of the sound. My voice became my children’s beacon, it told them which direction to turn to look for me. The voice of the mother is distinguishable over any other voice. Once babies bond with their father, they can distinguish the voice of their father over any other male voice. The voices of our parents are the most familiar and trusted voices that speak to our souls of well-being and our needs being met. As children, the voices of our parents are the most soothing voices we hear when words are spoken with love and care. Their voices speak comfort and contentment to our hearts.

I have always liked the sound of the human voice. It must stem from my days as a child. As long as I could hear the voice of my mother and father I knew I was safe. At night I would listen to the conversations of my parents, and it lulled me to sleep.

My son says the same about his childhood. As long as he could hear his father and me talking in the other room, he relaxed and fell asleep. I would read a lot of stories to my children when they were younger. It wasn’t the story that meant so much, as it was hearing the voice of their mother and the sense of my presence so close to them. To this day my children enjoy it when we say bedtime prayers out loud. Hearing their mother’s voice praying for their well-being, and the warmth of my presence, calms them and prepares them for some peaceful sleep.

My girls still ask me if they can sleep in my bed at night. During the few times I allow them to hop in, we end up talking about our day. Our words turn into whispers. Soon we get tired and sleepy, and words become fewer and fewer. I know it’s my voice in the darkness of the room that they primarily focus on. As long as they can hear my voice, they are not afraid of the night. When they fall asleep, I hear the breathing of my children. It takes me back to the time when they were babies. As long as I could hear my babies breathe, I knew they were fine. The sound of a baby’s breathing is glorious music to a mother. She knows her child is slumbering peacefully.

My grandmother used to tell us stories at night. As a very young girl I would lie down next to my grandmother in bed. She would tell the stories of "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Wolf and the Seven Goats." Afterwards we said our prayers together. My grandmother spoke very slowly, and her voice wasn’t an annoying voice that sounded scratchy or high-pitched. I would roll over and fall asleep in her arms, with her voice being the last sound I heard for the night.

I used to tell stories to my younger sister at night. She loved it when I made up fairy tales to tell her. Since we shared a bedroom, she wanted me to lie down next to her and tell her stories. Before I even got finished with the story, she was already asleep. The comforting and familiar sound of her sister’s voice soothed her to sleep.

As I was growing up, I noticed that the voices would change with the content of the stories. When I got in trouble, I received a stern warning from my parents and their voices didn’t sound so pleasant. I also occasionally fought with my brothers and sister, and our voices would rise in anger to shouting.

Over time the voice carries words that hold importance to a listener. As a child, my ears would perk if I heard the word "ice cream" or "toys." My heart would just sink if I heard the words "grounded for two weeks" or "bedtime." The voice spoke words that meant happiness or sadness to me.

Children wake up to their own voices when they start developing their own identities and following their own agendas. I noticed that in all three of my children. They are figuring out what they do and do not like. My girls no longer want to me to dress them. My oldest daughter already chooses her own clothes and decides how to do fix her hair. My youngest daughter is very particular when it comes to food. She considers becoming a vegetarian, because she doesn’t like meat (which of course frustrates her mother). They show this by "demanding" to do things on their own. It seems they basically defy their parents in every way possible. These are the trials and joys of raising children.

As a parent I had to learn to let go of the apron string and give them enough space to let them make a few mistakes of their own to learn from. That’s probably the most difficult task of a parent — letting go. My only son, a second-year college student, will still call me to discuss some of his concerns with me. I do the same with my parents. I find that no matter what their ages, children will seek out the advice of their elders if they don’t trust their own inner voice. It’s good to weigh one’s own voice against that of another’s. It brings a balanced picture to a young mind and to my parental one as well. Children learn to listen by being listened to.

Our own voices don’t always know what’s best for us. There are limits to what we know and there are limits to our abilities. Even as a parent I am not always assertive with my decisions. I battle with what to do, and at times question what is right or wrong. The sternest voice is usually my own anyway. I tend to be hardest on myself. My own voice lacks the objective to see the bigger picture at times. I call it my "blind spot" and it is where I have reached the limits of my vision. My own voice can no longer carry me over my blind spot.

There will always be moments when we question the voices we hear from the outside. After all, these are human voices. Over time we have learned that humans have their flaws. The words spoken by another’s voice often does not match up to the action taken by the person whose voice it is. There is no longer the complete assurance of our well-being that we had in our childhood. Life teaches us that an outside voice with many words can disappoint and lie. If we listen too much to these voices, they can take us down a path of confusion that’s filled with the clutter of too many words that have no meaning.

I know of several people who claim to know truth and pretend to be righteous. They shout words in all directions. The words sound hollow and empty. Their actions don’t match the words, because they listen to a wrong voice. Their inner voice has become confused, and that confusion pours out of them. These wolves in sheep’s clothing speak words that do not resonate with my heart. As a result their words insult me. They are full with power of judgement, fire and brimstone. There is no mercy and love in their words. I sometimes have the feeling that these people really hate themselves so much that they must spew the words to others just to get rid of the hate. The people that seem to listen to their voices are mostly very vulnerable people. They seem to be very young and naïve in mind, or they follow the feelings of an enslaved heart and will. The slave no longer hears his own voice, but the voice of his slave master. The voice from the outside becomes their master to dictate their lives. Like puppets on a string, they cannot hear the voice of truth to guide them. Maybe they never heard it in the first place.

I’m very leery when I see these people speak. I say see, because I refuse to listen to their words. I use my sense of observation to discern a liar. These people do not hear the cries of those around them, but take advantage of the fear and pain which enslaves for their own advantage. A fake or a charlatan is a liar and trickster. His is a mockery of the genuine voice. He will not get up during the night and give comfort like a mother would, and give those who hurt and hunger sustenance and his time. He will not listen to the concerns and needs of the children, like a father would feel it is his responsibility to do. He will not sing the lullabies that bring a peaceful sleep. He will bring heartache and sleepless nights, leaving a trail of tears in the agonizing cries of the children. Be careful of the voice of a trickster. Watch him but don’t listen. His trail is that of deceit and destruction. Nothing flourishes in his path nor will it produce good things. Watch but don’t listen.

The true and genuine Voice listens to the cries of the children. It knows them by their heartbeats and not by any uniform or label. It comes like a whisper in the night. It rises out of nowhere. Like a mother’s voice this Voice soothes the cries of her children with soothing whispers to the heart. Nourishment can be found only in words that are meaningful and bring forth fruit in one’s life. This Voice also teaches like a father would. There’s patience and kindness in this Voice. It does not push or bully into compliance but instead operates on knowledge and mercy, and brings understanding gently in the fullness of time. This is a good Voice to listen to. The closer one comes to the source of the Voice the better is the vision with which to see the Face. There is no wolf in sheep’s clothing, but a gentle lamb. The lion no longer eats the lamb. They will lie side by side and put an end to the nightmares of the night.

This is the Voice that frees and sets the captives free. It drowns out all the wrong voices and helps with the "blind spot" that every human has. A person grows to maturity, in grace and kindness, with the help of this Voice. Like my children did when they were babies, a child can recognize the whisper of the Voice and turn in the right direction. Children no longer fear the night. And when the Voice calls, children know which way to go. Children with a heart will wait and listen for the Voice that comes like a whisper in the night.

Sabine Barnhart [send her mail] moved to the US in 1980 and lives in Fort Worth, TX with her three children. For the past 15 years she has been working for an international service company.

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