22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him. -Lamentations 3:22-28
Waiting can be a nasty business.
I'd like to think sometimes that serenity and trust overcame Zechariah, and he began to enjoy the anticipation and stillness during his isolation. But if I'm honest, the guy probably had ulcers. His wife left him for five long months! If there had been previous miscarriages, five months would have been a lifetime with only the word of an angel to underscore the promise of a child.
Elizabeth would have spotted. Every drop of blood, natural in the progression of any pregnancy, would have been cause for terror. Every spasm, every push, every step in the formation of life and body would have created an almost supernatual anxiety about the impending birth. Again, it all hinged on the word of an angel. Except for Elizabeth, that word came through (or didn't rather) her mute husband. Her trust rested on the second hand muteness of that promise.
Yes. Waiting is a nasty business and we all don't look like calm Buddha statues or lanky, stretched-out yogis. In fact we often looked tangled up, found biting our nails, experiencing moments of insight and peace, but mostly fighting the many ordinary moments where God sounds silent again.
"Most of us do not wake up ready and able to receive or understand God's words. We have to train ourselves to become the type of earthly vessels that can endure the challenging joy of waiting on God, whether we are waiting for the Christ child or for an answer to prayer" (Okoro, p.57).
I could certainly use some training.
Silence often doesn't look as a gift to me. Silence means abandonment, death, or non-existence. The writer of Lamentations says that "the Lord is good to those whose hope is in him" (v.25). When I read that, my first reaction is that once again I have to be good enough, believe enough, trust enough, or know enough before God will do something for me. Quid pro quo, as it were. I know Christianity, as seen through Jesus, really has nothing to do with such capitalist reciprocity (although reciprocity of other sorts are certainly involved), sometimes it seems that teachers of our time shame us enough to believe that God is silence because of our inadequacies.
I know I don't believe enough; I don't believe the right things (if such things there be); I don't trust enough; I don't love enough; I don't listen enough.
For pity's sake, I don't sit still enough long enough for any of the above to actually take root. My patience is wearing thin with God.
No sense of where-ness in the barrens; no sense of any kind of boundary between what is self-pity and what is outright lament, and what is a mixture of the two; and no sense that any of it will end anytime soon.
I took a walk into secualr humanism a while back. It was easy to stop believing in God and to rely on strict logic to interpret myself and the world. God's silence was easily seen as God's non-existence.
Yet my stay was short-lived... or at least made more private. While I found two or three atheists, anti-theists, and secular humanists to have deep, meaningful discussions with, by and large I was met with scorn, mockery, derision and condescension. Instead of something new, secular humanism simply replaced anything God-like with all things person-like, and told me what to believe and how. If I didn't think critically enough or logically enough, I was believing in a "fairy-God-man in the sky" and allowing myself to be brainwashed. It was all easy to accuse people of faith of being brainwashed, but to apply critical thinking secular humanism and find the same "brain washy-ness"... well... trust me, Henri, it gets ugly.
It only erased the Divine Being and stuck me in there instead. And quite frankly, Henri, I've failed in certainly every respect. Suffice it to say, it wasn't a healthy, logical or beautiful place for me to remain. There was the same snobbery, the same intellectual violence, and the same hubris that every religion and spiritual path has given and received throughout humanity's history. Nothing was different.
And so I wait. Here I am.
I'm waiting for God to show up.
Gabriel isn't anywhere to be found, but the new eyes on Zechariah's story has perhaps woken a bit of hope inside me. Perhaps silence isn't punitive. Perhaps silence is the strong hand of waiting, calling me to hear what cannot be heard through everything else.
What say you?
Until tomorrow, Henri,