The Sound of Silence

Thank goodness I don’t write a daily devotional. Some days, I get nothing. I will pray or read or try to think and get zero inspiration. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. I’ve often felt that God was taking a vacation where I was concerned. I don’t feel led, on those days, to do or say anything. I don’t feel the Holy Spirit guiding me to act on or write anything. I am tempted, on those days, to go it alone, to come up with something I find pertinent. To introduce thoughts that are mine and mine alone, but when I sit down to type those out, I find they are fixed, flat, inert, on my screen. They are, in short, not what I was supposed to write.

On day one of a spiritual drought, I don’t panic. I’ll keep searching, reading, praying, seeking. On day 4, it’s a crisis. I remember the devotional practices of my youth… go to the Proverbs, read the Psalms, locate Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon – like any poetry, it is a source of invention.

Today, for instance, I read the 29th chapter of Proverbs, since it is the 29th day of the month. I find that “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” Hm. “Where there is no revelation; the people cast off restraint” This chapter reminds me not so much of profound spiritual truth as it does the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Sound of Silence.” These stanzas speak to the negative aspects of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one deared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the signs said the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

I don’t always get inspiration from a 1960s rock group, but sometimes the connections present themselves. I think Simon and Garfunkel created an updated Allegory of the Cave, here. I’m not the first to make that comparison, but I think Plato’s Allegory and the 29th chapter of Proverbs amd S&G share a disdain for manufactured “reality” over widom and truth. When there is no revelation – no message from on high, we invent, we elevate our own words and thoughts to that of gospel. Plato wrote of a cave – the people inside saw the shadows dancing on the wall, project from the reality outside into the cave, and thought that mere shadows were the reality. Solomon, who knew something of wisdom and foolishness, warns of being too hasty to create something out of nothing – “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Simon and Garfunkel, in this song, are talking of two different kinds of silence. There is the silence that is a place of contemplation, and the silence created by deafening noise. All those people are talking without listening — creating a din. The silence I encounter sometimes when I search the Scriptures or pray for guidance, is frustrating to me. I want an answer, a revelation. In all my whining about receiving no word, for all my fervent prayers begging for meaning, when I complain that my self-interested claims upon God’s favor are ignored, his actual word and revelation echo in the well of silence. I’m talking without speaking and hearing without listening. I am retreating farther into the depths of silence.

I usually calm down after a few days, take a fresh approach, look in some new direction for direction, and I end up with posts like this. This may not mean anything to anyone else but me. It’s a reminder to myself to shut up when leading is not immediate, when I don’t feel inspired, to welcome that contemplative period as an old friend, rather than a house guest who overstayed their welcome before entering the house. God has never left me high and dry when I needed him. The Holy Spirit has never abandoned me. I was looking but not seeing. That silence like a cancer, I allowed to grow. Proverbs 29:25: “But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” I do not need to create a neon god, but to quietly seek out the TRUE GOD. Too often, I wait until I feel God “speak” to me, and when I read the Bible, I realize that he’s already spoken, and I should look to his words – because as long as I have his Word, the Silence cannot overtake me.

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