Monday, August 12, 2013

The Sound of Silence

By the time you read this I will be in the air on my way to Sudan. Matt, Nick, and Olivia are with me, and we once again find ourselves carrying the pregnant silence that always comes with the anticipation of wondering “What will God do now, next—in us, among us, with us, and in those we meet?”

In Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, Frederick Buechner writes of the silence of Jesus in response to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” Buechner shares, “What Jesus lets his silence say is that truth is what words can’t tell but only tell about, what images can only point to. The weight of these sad times is the weight of their eloquent silence…”

Sad times and Eloquent silence. These four words more aptly capture the weight of glory and the darkness of despair in a precious child who’s lost all hope and has no one to point the way than anything I’ve ever considered. Often when meeting such a child, I—the woman who loves words—find myself wordless. In the past I have bitterly judged myself for not being a “good steward” of the people God has led me to if I cannot share their stories and mobilize others to help them. Gradually, I am learning silence is sacred and is the first evidence of our looking to God, just as when Jesus was silent before Pilate, the Stone-Throwers, His dead friend Lazarus. All His words and actions came after the holy silence.

I think part of my comfort in words is that they can easily help to size up a problem and carve out a solution. Whereas all of life’s deepest suffering comes not from the ABCDs of solvable, albeit complex, problems (like the ones that if we do X then problem Y goes away) but rather ones that defy human rectification, drive us to our knees, render us powerless, and cause us to weep wordless prayers to a God whose ways are not our own.

These broken moments of life are the cracks in our walls where the real work of God takes place. The same holes which we try to stuff with wordy prayers, until finally the hammering story of another breaks through the mortar of our own and we, at last, helplessly weep with another—unable to separate their tears from our own puddling together at our feet. Then, and only then, our holy water breaks and surrender is born.

How I wish you were physically alongside us, feeling both the weight of glory and darkness of despair which our children carry with resounding silence. For now, I ask you to be with us and our children by taking time each day to let the spoken and unspoken words of their lives mingle with your own experience of needing to know God in the silence, and eventually hear Him speak as well as see Him work in your life.

Love, your sister along the silent journey,

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  1. Thank you for this post, Kimberly. I just read this passage in John today and have been thinking about the weight of silence. My heart and prayers are with all of you as you travel to be with these precious ones.


  2. Mrs Smith I wrote a comment but somehow it did not get posted. I said I need your forgiveness for being a lousy Christian since I get $800 for food and myself but I can't save and I run up a debt at corner store buying Diet Coke chips subs etc then I bought $110 in books so$400 was spent before I went grocery shopping.I have no money for you or local church. I have been on SSD and I have not worked in 20 years and you gave everything to God. I read the book by John Piper but it did not change me I am Wasting my Life.I just will try to donate $20 before I buy a book in September but I know that will not make a difference and I already owe$30 to store for pop.I neglect God but when I next pray I will pray for you and children. Please forgive me for being so lazy and comfortable in USA

  3. Kimberly, you are amazing with words. The way you write experiences, feelings, and deep truths of the faith is amazing. Even though I do not see what you see on your trips to Sudan, you have taken me there with your words. You have brought my heart to the deep places of prayer, with tears and anguish. Sometimes with no words, for the problems are too huge for little me. God wants our hearts, but if our hearts are closed, they are closed to Him. You have a way to break through into our hearts with your gift of writing. You are gifted and blessed, thank you for sharing that gift with us. I will be holding you in prayer for this trip.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I can feel the weight of that silence reading this in a busy Starbucks in London Waterloo station in the UK and feel somehow able to join you in prayer amidst the loud noise where I am sitting. Praying that God would work through the silence and the fear in His perfect way.