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.