The King and I.

The divine essence
Image by Guðskraftur via Flickr

There are times in my life that God’s presence just seems to hover beneath the surface of everything.  I have this idea that I might scratch the surface away of things, and what is beneath will just illuminate the universe.

Occasionally, I am crystal clear of God’s communication with me.  It is both auditory and not-auditory, both words and not-words, both English and thought, sent directly into my brain.

And then… then there are times like now.

I’m going through this season in my life where God’s presence is so much more difficult for me to detect.  I am not really depressed.  I’m not experiencing doubt.  It’s just that, right now, God is silent.

And so I’ve been contemplating this, and praying about it, and studying the topic.  There this thing I want to say about God’s silence.  But in order to say it, I have to say some things about silence (and talking) in general.

It’s an interesting almost-paradox.  Silence is necessary for speech to happen.  If we define speech as 2-way communication, then in any conversation, at least one person has to be silent.  If both people are talking then nobody is listening.  If nobody is listening, then it’s just so much noise, not really talking at all.

The act of being silent for the other person to talk is a show of respect.  It is an agnowlodgement of their relevance to our lives.   It implies that we value the other, and that we want to learn from them.

In fact, we can probably guage at least two things from the silences that go on in a conversation. By the ammount of time I am willing to be silent, we can go a long way toward measuring how much respect I have for another person.  To be more specefic: if I am in the presence of someone I have a great deal of respect for, then I am willing to be very quiet for a very long time.   If they are someone who I kind-of respect, I am willing to be quiet for as long as they are speaking.  If I do not much respect them, I am likely to expect that roughly half the “air time” in our conversation belongs to me.  I am likely to get annoyed if someone I don’t respect much talks for quite some time with out letting me get a word in edge wise.  On the other hand, if I kind-of respect someone, I am likely to want to soak up the words they have to offer me.

But if the other person is silent, and I am still silent?  Then I must respect that person an awful lot.  If the other person says nothing and I continue to expectantly wait, then it would be safe to assume I afford the person a great deal of respect.

(Yes, I know that sometimes we just blabber on to fill awkward silences.  But we don’t generally want to do this, it’s a bit unintentional.  And yes, I know that we’re supposed to afford great respect to everyone.  If you’ve mastered that talent, I’d love to hear your tips for it, because it’s something I’m still working on.)

The point I’m trying to make might be illuminated by considering a lunch in a mannor in the 1600s.  If I am a noble, and the other people eating are all of my station, they are probably all talking at about the same time.  If I am presiding over a feast for the peasants, then it might be expected that no one eats or speaks before I do.  But if I am in the presence of a king, and he has not yet spoken as we eat, I will wait, too.  If we make it all the way through the appetizers, into the entrees, even into the desert, if the king has not spoken to me, I would be expected to eat in silence.

And so sitting in the silence and waiting to be spoken to is an act of worship.  I am in the presence of my king, the only king I recognize.  It is an honor to be given this oppurtunity, to eat in silence with Him.

I know that it is important to recognize that Christ called us friends.  I hold this truth in a tension, though.  Because He is also the King of Kings.  He is sovereign.  And his apparent silence is an oppurtunity for me to recognize this.

There are other growth oppurtunities in this silence.  But they are the more obvious ones.  When God is silent, we are called to listen closer and deeper.  When God is silent, we are challenged to mantain our practice and disciplines of continuing to live the way we are expected to.  But I don’t have much new to say about these things.  The idea that God’s silence is an oppurtunity for worship by honoring that silence, this is a new thing for me, so I’m going to continue to contemplate it, until He speaks.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “The King and I.”

  1. This post leaves me a couple of things to think about.
    –My over-talkativeness may indicate lack of respect.
    –God’s silences can be opportunities to worship.

    It also causes me to add a couple of cautions.
    –We can expect God’s presence always, but may not always sense his presence.
    –We live by his words of scripture, not by our feelings of his presence.

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts Jim. I’d want to be careful about overstating the case between we humans. Introverts like myself are often quite thankful for folks willing to keep the conversation rolling.
    On your second point, yes! That’s just what I was trying to say.

    Your cautions are quite powerful ones; both are quite true.

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  3. I’ve been reading a really great book called “Sacred Marriage” lately, and the author talks about the human marriage relationship as a mirror to our relationship with God (not so surprisingly), and about how the marriage relationship goes through highs and lows and just being quiet together sometimes. So I think the silence in a marriage can sometimes demonstrate profound respect, and the silence in our relationship with God can sometimes demonstrate deep intimacy.

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