Like many, I had learned about the Underground Railroad in school but was unaware of the delicate and highly intrinsic system of unspoken communication the Railroad utilized. Messages had to be screamed in silence, urgency carried through the façade of the mundane. How were these brave men and women scattered across multiple states able to accomplish such a feat?
Railroad workers managed to communicate with light. Lanterns strategically placed outside doors or in windows were welcome signals. They also learned much could be said through music. Spirituals like “Wade in the Water”, “Steal Away”, “Sweet Chariot”, and “Follow the Drinking Gourd” were just a few of the songs used as coded communication to give instructions, location and warnings.
One of the most unique ways Underground Railroad workers communicated was through code phrases, which were statements that meant something else, a meaning known only to those in the Railroad.
“The wind blows from the south today.”
A warning to Underground Railroad workers that fugitive slaves were in the area.
“The river bank makes a mighty good road.”
A reminder that tracking dogs can’t follow scent through water.
“The friend of a friend sent me.”
A password used by fugitives traveling alone to indicate they were sent by the Railroad.
Although many historians argue about it, legends have been passed down about the Railroad’s used of patterned quilts hung outside homes to convey messages. Hiding places in crates, false bottoms in wagon beds, and a variety of other means were also used.
The research got me thinking about the ways God speaks to us. Likely most of us won’t hear Him the way Moses, Elijah, or Abraham did, but that doesn’t mean He is silent. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. Sometimes I think we’re oblivious to His voice. We’re so consumed with the little details of everyday living, we’re ignorant to what’s really going on around us. His message is hiding in plain sight.
So how does God speak to us?
~His Holy Spirit
~Markers of remembrance
I’ll break down all of these in part two, but for now, let me leave you with wise words from Christian comedian and speaker Michael Jr.
“If I could explain God, He wouldn’t be God. The simplest, most basic way I can describe Him is like this, and I’m barely scratching the surface. God is like a navigation device in your car. If you punch in the coordinates of where you want to go and it says “Go ten blocks and turn left”, but you go ten blocks and turn right, it doesn’t abandon what you’re supposed to do. It recalculates to get you where you’re supposed to be, based on where you are. The problem is if we keep taking wrong turns, the road conditions are going to be different. It’ll be a lot rougher. If you keep taking wrong turns, you may not arrive at the destination. The clock is ticking and none of us know how much time we’ve been given.”
God is guiding your life but are you following the Conductor?