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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Leon

God Answers

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11-12)


I heard the owl again the other night.

 

It started a few years back. Twice a week, I slip out of my house in the middle of the night to pray for an hour in the Adoration Chapel at our church. I padded quietly down the stairs from my bedroom and grabbed my coat and keys laid out by the front door. As I carefully closed and locked the front door behind me, I took a moment to enjoy the stillness of the night, deep wind chimes singing softly on the porch. As I walked to my car, the cry floated through the air: Hoo-hoo hoo-hoo-hoo hooooooooo. Its resonant deep call filled the darkness and I paused, delighted.


 I love owls. They have something to teach us about watching and waiting, about stillness. The eyes of an owl are knowing, timeless, wise. There was an owl in the trees behind our house the morning my 4th child was born. My mother spotted it in the morning and gathered the other children reverently, choosing to honor the owl as a gift and celebration of our new little boy.

 

My new owl was not close. I could tell its call traveled through many trees, haunting and profound, before it reached me. Its baritone solo left me frozen in the driveway, ears straining to hear more. I smiled, feeling very special indeed to hear an owl alone in the night. I have heard my owl a handful of times, the same deep pitched pattern I discovered came from the Great Horned Owl. Each time I step into the night on my way to the church, I listen, hoping and waiting to hear its voice declaring its presence in the dark night.

 

I suffered from darkness during this same season. It was a cold January night when I made my way to the chapel, heavy and sad. I wrestled with grief, doubt, discouragement, depression, comparison, rejection, sorrow… I curled up in front of Jesus in the chapel and unraveled, pouring out my lament and my tears on the ground in front of the monstrance.

 

This was my safe place, my refuge.  It is where I go when my inner intensity is too much to hold. I have spent years drawing close and closer to the Lord in this small space, often alone in the night watch.

 

Praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a beautiful tradition in the Catholic faith. We believe the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, so the small white host held in the monstrance (the fancy gold stand) is really Jesus exposed for anyone to draw near, but never to be left alone. The chapel has a schedule of committed adorers 24/7 so that someone is always in the chapel with our Lord. Initially, Ralph and I went together, 11 pm to midnight on Tuesdays, but shortly after John Paul Raphael died, they needed more adorers in the middle of the night and I felt called to go.  It has been a sacred time alone with Jesus and my grief.


On this night, I felt empty. Despite his physical presence, the Lord felt far away. I knew God called us each by name, but remembered an invitation I had read to go deeper with Him. Think of your own children – you know their names, but what else do you call them? Sweetie? Love-bug? A special nickname or endearment?

 

I claimed the truth that the love of God is universal but also personal and intimate. How does He really say my name? My prayer was bold that night in the darkness. In tears I asked for the grace to feel who I was to Him, to hear what He called me. I prayed hard and waited in the silence, my ears straining like they did for the owl. The minutes ticked by as I waited expectantly. I wrestled with him in the silence like Jacob and the angel, the persistent widow knocking at the door. Silence.

 

Trying not to feel disappointed or foolish for “putting the Lord to the test”, I drove home at the end of my hour and climbed into bed, still heavy and sad.  In the few hours between then and dawn, I heard a voice in a dream, barely more than a whisper but a still firm, steady voice, resonant like my owl. The voice breathed a name into my heart, a name I had never before heard but that was personal just for me, a name that echoed within me as I opened my eyes to the light of day: Elia. What did it mean? As the question formed the answer was already there: This is your name. 

 

When people ask how God speaks to me, it is rarely this direct and clear. This was a magnificent gift, a glorious answer to my lament. Elia. Still groggy from sleep, I reached for my phone and googled the name. My heart filled with love and awe, overflowed with the intimate, tender care of God as I read:  Elia is Hebrew and means, “My God has answered.”


Oh, my heart. God answered my prayer.  God answered. He called me by name. Elia. The name felt instantly comfortable. It fit like a pair of warm slippers I had worn for years.  Elia. God’s name for me. My truest deepest name. My holy name. What a profound consolation, one God knew I would desperately need to bravely and boldly carry out His will. To let myself be loved.


Not a tattoo, just a reminder

Over the last few years, the name Elia has slowly seeped into my heart, redeeming me like oil spreading faithfully and steadfastly into every corner of my soul. Elia is free. Elia is loved and lives from the outrageous, glorious magnificence of this love.


Elia is God’s hand-picked mercy for me. This name, my beloved identity in Christ, has slowly and steadily doused the flames that burned me from within. The fire has been transformed and burns now as a fiery passion to share the hope that healing is the promise. To share the power and peace that come from drawing near to his Sacred Heart and letting him love you to wholeness.


God always answers, even if the answer is one we cannot see or feel. Silently, he fills us and changes us. The scriptures tell us to remember the works of the Lord. When we are in moments or seasons of darkness, I am to remember the works the Lord has done in my life. Remember the call to slide my hand into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Remember my yellow rose when after six years, Jesus reminded me that He had heard my prayer. Remember the miracle of John Paul Raphael’s life.

 

Despair is real. Darkness, pain, and trauma are real.  But the Lord and his care for us are always bigger, always stronger. Gloriously infinite.

 

And He always answers, sometimes with the woody deep-throated call of an owl.

 

I have heard the owl many times since that night, and sometimes, a second owl calls back to answer the first. An owl duet in the middle of the night. My call and God’s response. A love song, I imagine.

 

These owls, unseen but still heard, remind me that when I cry out to the Lord in the darkness, it can feel like the sound is lost in the wilderness. But every time, even when the sound has not yet made its way to my ears or my heart, God answers.



 

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