Friday, August 31, 2007

Not all that golden. . .

There is an old, probably ancient, saying that 'silence is golden'. . . Over the years, numbers of times I have wished at different times for silence in an atheistic plea to an unknown god. . . said those words in gratitude after the sick child finally fell asleep in my arms. . . in the stillness, in the precious like gold silence. Tension recedes, the air softens, muscles begin to relax. . . testing the depth of rest. Will the precarious sleep hold or will the misery and agony again break forth. . . little sounds unnoticed before, now appreciated, now magnified by their lack of competition. . . footsteps on the carpet, the creak of a loose floorboard, the dogs toenails clicking on the linoleum, a dripping faucet, the whispered ticking of a clock, even the gentle ever present sound of my heart beating softly steps into awareness after the cessation of a prolonged tension building noise.

In perspective, seen from the distance of years gone by, the unbroken quiet of the long empty and rarely visited child's room, is no longer precious, but faded and recognized for the vacuum that it truly is. We wish for silence until the noise is gone and then we wish ever so much harder that we had the noise again. Does your spouse snore? One day the snoring will surely stop and the silence will be twice as hard to bear, sleep ever again denied for stillness sake, not noise. . .

No state is desirable in unbroken duration. Feasting and fasting are both best experienced in moderation. Neither noise, nor quiet is tolerable in excess. . . Silence has meaning every bit as deep as sound, for without the pauses between sounds and silence between words, no intelligible communication is possible. An unbroken procession of syllables is not decipherable for long. The mind needs the pauses to uncover more than just the dictionary meaning of the words and to arrive at the thought beneath them. Read of the difficulties in reading and in translating the original ancient Hebrew Biblical text. That rudimentary language has no punctuation, no pauses between words, no separation between thoughts for emphasis, no telling where one thought ended and another began. Even given bright minds and millennia of time to study and ponder the words, it is often still difficult to determine the original intent of the writer in that language with no pauses.

The blank pages between chapters, the indentation of a new paragraph beginning, the full stops of periods, my beloved ellipsis, the brief pauses of a comma, the colons, and semi-colons of written language all add to our understanding. . . In maybe more symbolic form, but no in less meaningful intent I believe that our relationship with God undergoes periods of quiet. . . little pauses. . . little times of quiet. . . longer periods. . . even at times full stops. It is not a relationship of endless noise, but is punctuated by times of purposeful quiet and that quiet has meaning. It is not randomly assigned to us. There is purpose and intent in the quiet times of God.

I read recently of Mother Teresa, no matter what disagreements you might have with her theology, you would be a very hardened person to deny that her life was lived as one who dearly loved the Lord. It is said in an article about a recently written book that she endured a silence, a cessation from hearing the voice of God of almost 50 years. I cannot comprehend. I dearly pray that I never have a punctuation mark of that length in my communication with my Lord, but. . . but. . . but. . . I do not believe that God does anything randomly, merely to be cruel or by accident.

In my short time of living for God, I have had a number of periods where I could not hear the voice of God. I believe that I am in such a period right now. I believe that there is always a reason for the silence. . . If I have the honesty to admit it and to face it, there is always a reason for God's quietness. . .

In Malachi chapter 3 God offers a stinging rebuke of the Jewish people:

6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
8 "Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How are we robbing you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
Israel Speaks Arrogantly Against God
13 "You have spoken arrogantly against me," says the LORD. "Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?'
14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.' " (NIV)


As Dr. Larry Crabb points out in his wonderful book Finding God . Immediately following this condemnation of the Jewish nation was a silence of some 400 years, no prophets, no open word of God, "You have spoken arrogantly against me. . ." says the Lord. . .and then only after several centuries of silence later did Jesus give his first recorded public sermon of His ministry. . . He begins

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These words of Jesus are virtually in a direct continuation of the theme of the last words of God in Malachi, the accusations of 400 years earlier, He speaks of the blessings of brokenness and meekness. . . the very opposite of arrogance. I do not believe in coincidence with God. Nothing was left to chance in the creation of the universe, no loose ends in the bringing us out of the dirt and the rib. I do not believe that there are any random happenings in our relationship with Him.

When I look at the times of quiet between He and I, they are times that I have needed to heed what He has already said to me. They are times when I, like the five-year-old, need a time-out, a quiet time, a time of reflection. I am in the midst of a quiet time right now with God. I have been here for some time already I can look mystified and pretend that I don't know what is going on, but in my heart I do know. . . There are things within me that need to be dealt with before I can grow again. . . .hardness, ego, rebelliousness, selfishness. . . maybe even arrogance it could be called. I know that God is there. His eyes are fully upon me. He is expectantly waiting to find which direction I will choose to go.

I cannot speak for everyone and their relationship with God, but I know that God loves you and I and everyone. I know that His goal is for us all to have as close a relationship with Him as is possible and that He will go to any length to achieve that relationship. He has proven that by taking on human flesh and being nailed to the cross for us. My journey with Him is a journey with no end. I am slow and stubborn at times, thick headed like an ass. He must become ever more creative in his teaching of me, in order that I might continue to travel down the path He has set before me. No teacher worth the name gives the same test over and over. At times He closely guides me and gives me daily hugs. At times He withdraws and lets me stumble about on my own. He is still there, peering at me just around the corner like the parent of a toddler, watching the young one, who thinks they are alone. What will they (I) do? Our Father waits for us out of sight, just around the corner watching. . . waiting. . . .

I will not be satisfied with the separation. I stand on His words:

Jeremiah 29:13
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

I've got to get everything else out of my heart. There can be room there for nothing but desire for Him. God warned the Hebrews of the coming separation, the coming 400 year unholy silent night:

Amos 8:10-12
And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. (11) Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: (12) And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

It was in response to their sin that God grew quiet. It was a lesson for them, a test for them to take. . . He used the prophet Amos to warn them. They didn't listen. They did not pass the test. God used Jonah to warn Nineveh. Nineveh listened and repented. Jonah's prophecy did not come to pass. If the Israelites had heeded the warning of Amos, the silence and withdrawal of God may well need not have happened. Time and again in the Bible God relented of promised retribution in the face of sincere and humble repentance. When God grows quiet in your life, you have two choices. You can accept His silence or you can seek Him ever more diligently. . .

I am working Lord. . .
I am seeking your face. . .
I am examining my heart. . .
Help me Lord. . .
Create in me a clean heart. . .
Renew a right spirit within me. . .

Dave Stokely

2 comments:

Freethinker said...

"The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."

David A. Stokely said...

You are so right Freethinker. I was an athiest for 45 years and I was so so very wrong. . .