11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
I did not realize until I stepped through the front doors and wasn’t met with the usual busy chatter that I had accidently signed up for a silent retreat. Yes, you read that correctly. No talking. No phone calls. No nothing. Just me and my thoughts for three full days. I could feel my blood pressure rise thinking about it. The first thing I do when I wake up, before my feet hit the ground, is immediately check my emails and the use of electronics was strongly discouraged? This was not going to be the retreat to focus in on my seminary studies that I had planned it to be. This was going to be pure torture. Any other time I had visited this center, one of the biggest draws was the conversations with others on their spiritual journey’s around a table or in the library. Now I was the only one I had to talk to!
Day one was rough. I kept wanting to ask people about what books they were reading or whether they knew the best walking path along the Hudson River. But no, deafening silence and the occasional head nod from a passer-by was all I was met with. How was I supposed to grow spiritually like this? I wanted God’s loud trumpet of discernment clarity. I wanted to be challenged theologically over a scriptural debate. I could not imagine God in anything as simple as silence.
When I read today’s text, it makes me think about how I felt at this silent retreat. I went to the mountain-top expecting to hear God’s booming voice, expecting God in thunder and storms and what God really needed from me in order to be heard was silence. There are times when we see God while in a conversation with another or amidst a chaotic situation. But there is a danger in thinking that God will always come through thundering. Sometimes what God is asking for to be heard is our silence.
By Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
How has silence played a role in your spirituality? Is it something you are comfortable with or does it make you weary? How might putting yourself in a situation of silence act as a “thin place”?
Prayer: God of the quiet, You know how to be heard. Forgive us for when we allow ourselves and the world to talk over You instead of making space for Your voice to be heard. Amen.