Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God is Not Silent

Whether you are wholesale devoted to following Jesus or you have only tossed up a few "hail Marys" in times of need, you know the pain of God's silence.

I do not intend to minimize the reality of that experience nor its accompanying pain.  These are very real parts of life that must be walked and not dismissed with pithy statements about God's timing or having more faith. (The Psalms are a testament to this kind of pain in silence!)

I do, though, want to share something that blessed me today concerning the noises God is making in our world.  I have been slowly wading through a book called Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindhl-Rast.  In the current chapter he is sharing insight about the connection/differentiation between faith, the courage to act upon God's leading, and beliefs, conviction about true statements about God/from God.  Living by the Word of God is not just a matter of accepting right thoughts about God but "feeding on it, being nourished by it, eating, drinking, and assimilating that Word." (p107)

This moves him into the part that brought me here tonight - how God brings that Word into our lives.  The author contends that God is speaking to us at all times and in countless ways.  Certainly from within yet well beyond the bounds of the written Word of God, the Father seeks to speak His message of faithfulness moment by moment, day after day.

The question then arises: how do we reckon with this great silence of God and His efforts to pour forth unending speech?

That's easy!  Let me give you three quick steps...  HA! I wish!  Actually, if I or anyone else promised hearing God could be manipulated into a manageable linear program, stop listening right away!

Okay, back to someone with actual wisdom...

Steindhl-Rast would say that one way of entering into this conflict of silence is our need to learn the language of God.  The bad news is that we do not hear Him because our ears do not understand the dialect of the heavens.  The good news, though, is that the native tongue in the Kingdom of God is not some hidden, ancient, complicated language only deciphered by the world's greatest theologians and spiritual leaders. Actually: "Everything there is in the whole universe exists for no other reason than to get this message [of God's faithfulness] across." (p108)

The author makes the claim that every tomato, every candle flame, and every face we see is a holy letter from God's infinite alphabet to express His unending faithfulness.  God is speaking.  He is not silent.  We must learn to tune our ears to His language, which is mediated through everything and everyone we encounter.

This is an invitation to listen, to be attentive, to live openly and deliberately.  This is an invitation to open our eyes, ears, minds, hands, and hearts to perceive the Voice of God singing songs of freedom, meaning, hope, delight, love, justice, and faithfulness to us. (Give Psalm 19 a read.)

"Does God speak?" is better articulated, "HOW does God speak?"

And that requires us to ask the main question, "Are we listening?"

Lest I romanticize God's incessant speaking into quaint things like Hallmark calendars with the colors of the fall leaves or the sweet smiles of children, hear this caution:

"To give ourselves to the sea breeze on a spring day is one thing; to step out into the mist and fog of a winter morning with the same sense of adventure demands more courage." (p110)

May we have the courage to listen to whatever God has to say through whatever means He chooses to say it - even if, as the mystics would teach us, the medium of that message is the silence itself.

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