A Silent God
O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! –Psalm 83:1
I grew up in church, attending nearly every Sunday with my family. It was an expectation that I accepted, although church was never particularly meaningful to me. I assumed God’s presence and goodness, although I never really felt or experienced it. I listened to stories of God appearing to folks in the Bible as a burning bush or in a cloud of fire. In Bible times, God spoke through dramatic visions and booming voices. The stories left no doubt of God’s presence. I, however, never saw or heard anything of the sort. If God was present with me, I assumed God was a silent God.
One Friday evening in December of my fourteenth year, my father and I were sitting in the car in front of our home visiting about Christmas. He told me of the painting he bought to surprise my mother. He talked about his work, and I told him about school. Early the next morning, my father lay dying on our bathroom floor from a brain aneurysm. Bible stories seemed clear that God was always present in challenging times, and my times were challenging. Even so, God’s silence was deafening. Not long after my father’s death, I stopped attending church. I did not stop believing there was a God, however, I just no longer believed in the God I had been taught about in church.
Retrospective has always been a good teacher for me. As I ponder the events of my earlier days, clarity often comes that was not present at the time. In the years following the passing of my father, I could not hear God because I was listening for a supernatural voice, or perhaps seeking something as dramatic as a burning bush or a pillar of cloud. I now know I could not find God because I was looking in the wrong places. God came to me many times through those difficult years, and I ignored God’s voice and care because it was too ordinary. For example, my best friend seldom left my side during the toughest days – not because he had words of wisdom to share, but because he did not want me to suffer alone.
In retrospect, it is clear that God was not silent. God was always present. I was simply not in a frame of mind to recognize God working through my friends and family and surroundings. Their love and attention was sufficient to carry me through my darkest days. I wonder how many God-inspired acts of kindness and compassion I missed because I was looking for something dramatic. No, we do not worship a silent God. We worship a God who often speaks and acts through very human channels. In a touch, a hug, or a kind note. Like a baby born in a manger, or the son of a humble carpenter, sometimes God chooses to manifest in simple ways through ordinary folks.
Come home to church this Sunday. You may find God waiting for you there.