The Sound of Sheer Silence

The Sound of Sheer Silence

Scripture: 1 Kings 19:11-13


I’m struggling with words right now. 2020 had been a challenging year already, disappointments and unknowns and stressors of all sorts drawing me to an alternative lenten practice.




The things that I grieved a week ago seem like such faint shadows to the concerns and grievances of today. It’s staggering.


Ten days ago, amid a life too full, I was reminding myself that hope is a time-consuming practice. Hope requires we take a step back, that we take in the gravity of a situation as much as we are able, that we look back to times when God has been faithful when friends and family have held us fast, and then we move forward, being honest with our needs.


Today I am faced with nothing but time. All the time in the world to take in the gravity of these moments, and nothing even remotely comparable to look back on and draw from.


I’m grasping for certainty. For some way to chart a course in the right direction even if I cannot know the future. I want to know that my choices are correct and good and helpful at this moment, even if I cannot see the full extent of their impact.


I want to have a posture toward life and this particular moment that is steady and measured and resolutely hopeful. But if I’m honest, I am dazed, searching and more than a little claustrophobic.


Hope begins with honesty. With taking in the gravity of a situation.

And there is much to observe right now.


I’m reminded of the prophet Elijah fleeing to the mountains, running for his life into the wilderness. In his desperation, God promises to pass by. And there is fire and earthquake and rushing wind. Strong, staggering forces of nature.


And God is not in any of these events, as Elijah would expect.


After all the burning away, the shaking, the rushing, after everything is disrupted, there is a gentle whisper.

Some would suggest a better translation is: “God was in the sound of sheer silence.”


I so often look for the presence of God in my neighbor, for the faithfulness of God in the hum of life in my city and my neighborhood. And now? Can I listen for God in sheer silence?


Silence not so much in the literal sense, because with everyone’s home my house is far from silent, but silence in the way it illustrates absence.


After the fire.
After the quaking.
After the wind whipping through.
God is in the absence of anything spectacular.


And in these days of bearing witness to both the might of what can be and the mundane of what is, may we look for God’s ongoing presence in the mundaneness of our lives, so deeply disrupted and so profoundly intact at the same time.


Hope begins with honesty. With taking in the gravity of a situation.
And then seeing God in the absence of anything spectacular.
Hearing God in the sound of sheer silence.

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