WORDS FROM W.W. March 7, 2014
Silence is golden…and increasingly uncomfortable, it seems! People are putting down $300 for headphones that will allow them to keep the noise in…their “noise preference”, that is!
There’s a reason why we wish for “peace and quiet.” The two are often linked together.
And yet, we live in a noisy world that elevates sounds and echoes and voices…and has a hard time knowing how to handle silence.
Millions watch “The Voice” each week. Nascar has a following of even more than that, as people flock to the raceways to cheer at the sounds of the engines revving.
Last Sunday I did a children’s story before the congregation received communion. I talked about the meaning of the elements…the bread and the cup…and asked the children to be extra quiet and still as we took communion that morning. We didn’t filter the silence with music…we just kept quiet. I’ve never had a communion experience quite like that! There was complete silence as we gathered together around the Lord’s table. it was…good!
A friend of mine recently made the comment that the silence of God sometimes brings people together.
We wait for a word, a leading, a whisper.
The noise has a way of drowning out lips that are sealed. We believe that God is ever-moving, and, as a result of that, we erroneously think that there must be constant chatter and loud praise.
A scripture that always has intrigued me comes at the end of Genesis 16 and the first verse of Genesis 17. I won’t quote it here, but simply say that it indicates a gap of thirteen years in Abram’s life. God had promised Abram that he was going to father a great nation, but things weren’t happening quick enough. Sarai wasn’t getting pregnant and neither of them was getting any younger, so they took things into their own hands and brought in Hagar to be a substitute wife. They could only trust God so long with what was going on. The emptyness of Sarai’s womb was too much silence for them to handle.
And so God was “silent” for thirteen years to further help them to realize that HE was going to bring a son into the lives of Abram and Sarai. Abram means “exalted father.” Abraham means “father of many.” Thirteen years of silence can bring us to a more attentive place, and God strengthened that listening by changing a name.
Sometimes God seems to be silent in our churches and in our lives, and we panic and begun to orchestrate holy moments. And yet, it is in the silence that we can quite often go to a deeper search…a testing of our faith…a point of confession and repentance. It’s a pathway through the wilderness, and yet we are hesitant to proceed.
Quite often I ask a question of a men’s group that I lead. The flow of conversation about pro football, hunting, new car models, and building projects has been going non-stop…and then the pastor interrupts the warmness, the male bonding, by asking the question “So what has God been doing in your life?” Or “What’s God been saying to you ?”
Silence invades the conversation. I realize that it is easier, and not as threatening, to talk about Cabela’s and outdoor grills than holy conversations, but the quiet that follows the question is deafening.
Some of our most meaningful times together have then flowed out of that question that is allowed to simmer for a bit.
Silence does end up leading us to the gold.