As you may know, I am not able to speak much these days because of a vocal cord problem. I have been looking forward very much to my surgery in August and then gradually getting my voice back. This time has been a season of imposed quietness and silence for me. I find I do enjoy silence. I probably don’t get enough of it in my life. Yet it is a bit harder to enjoy and live in quietness when it is forced upon you, rather than a choice you get to make.
I found myself thinking of characters in the Bible who had to deal with silence or learn how to listen. Old Zechariah, the priest and father of John the Baptist, is struck silent by an angel and cannot speak for nine months. The prophet Elijah, when he is running for his life from Queen Jezebel, hides in a cave, where a storm and raucous wind pass by and then he powerfully experiences God in the sound of sheer silence. Jesus would sometimes spend an entire night in prayer, temporarily leaving behind him the press and noise of the crowds that followed him.
Perhaps like Zechariah, I have also found this time has tested my patience. It’s felt like a lengthy period of waiting for just the right medical help. Some days it has been frustrating not being able to communicate as much as I want. I was visiting a member of our church in a care home. We were both wearing masks. He had some difficulty hearing and I couldn’t speak very loud, so communication was a challenge. In those moments I trust that God’s love comes through to both of us. The week after surgery I could not speak at all, so I did a lot of texting with my wife, even though she was sitting right next to me. That sure felt odd. Author Laurence Stookey reminded me we that in these times when life doesn’t go the way we want, we can pray for trust in the graciousness of God whose schedule may not fit our own, but whose will is always directed toward our good. I needed to remember that.
I find that doing more listening and being quiet gives me some space to listen to God. Perhaps God is using this time to attune my spiritual life to God’s ways of speaking. Let me say how I have appreciated all of your patience and how you have reminded me not to talk! I hope I won’t take my voice for granted as it returns. I have missed singing and being able to participate more fully in conversations. Sometimes I suspect my wife and children have appreciated being able to speak more while I have been talking less.
A lesson for me from this time will be to value the gift of silence when it comes and not try to hurry through it. I’m being reminded that God can speak in such wonderfully quiet ways to us that are important and profound. Perhaps in the quietness I’m learning to be more mindful of what is going on both around me and within me. I pray you, too, will notice and hear the soft whispers of God speaking to your faith.