God as silence

I recently came across a link to an old post of Pastor Keith Anderson’s called God as Silence. It’s a post well worth reading in it entirety because a summary simply will not do it justice. He recounts the story of a time when someone asked him about his image of God, and to his surprise (and the questioner’s), he responded that his image of God is silence. He spends the rest of the post exploring this image and why it works for him. (Seriously, go read it! It’s good stuff.)

I am intrigued both by the idea of developing my own image(s) for God and by his image of God as silence.

My own image of God has been shifting over the last few years. I started with an image of God as an angry judge who could never be pleased, which has fueled my perfectionism and my low self-image over the years. I’m moving toward an image of God as love, but I’m still not entirely sure I trust that yet. So what it is my image of God now?

I think God as silence might be the powerful and fitting one I can imagine for where I am on this journey. I haven’t been able to get this image out of my mind since I came across Keith’s blog post.

I’ve often sought and found God in silence, and that is what initially attracted me to the Quaker style of unprogrammed worship. In our busy, noisy world, dropping down into silence strips away the layers of distraction to leave space for listening, seeing, and understanding messages from God more readily. But to see God as silence is more than just finding God in the silence.

I watched a film called Resurrection by the SALT Project last year that talked about how there are times that we would do better to be silent in the face of the many pains and challenges our world faces. The phrase “sometimes we should just be silent” from the film as come to mind many, many times since then when I encounter things in this world that seem to horrible and too painful for words. It is in those moments, that my soul reaches for God in silence because there is nothing I can think of to say or to pray that would be enough to address what needs healing. This wordless reaching for God is another way that I find God in silence, but does it equate to seeing God as silence?

In my fundamentalist years, I had much to say about who God is and how God works in the world. Over the years, I have shifted increasingly from the surety of cataphatic theology (being able to say what God is) toward the mystery of aphophatic theology (only being able to say what God is not). In particular, I find that words simply cannot do justice to a God who is so much more than language can describe. For example, I would struggle even to say that God is love because our human concept of love is only a pale reflection of the love that is God. And so I find myself more often not staying silent about God because I cannot find words to express what I experience of God. But my silence does not mean that God is silence.

So why does this image of God as silence resonate so strongly with me? I think it has to do with how I experience silence. There is, of course, the silence that comes from a lack of communication; the silence I experience when my attempts at connection with others receive no response. This is a silence defined by lack, by emptiness. This is not the silence that I think of when I think of God.

There is another kind of silence. A silence pregnant with possibility. A silence that is so full and so rich that words cannot express it. A silence that is deeper connection than words could ever produce. This is the silence I think of when I think of God as silence.

It is the sense of entering into a space that is larger and richer and more real than anything this world has to offer in all its noise. It is the closest I can imagine to the “more” than God is.

I am sure that my images of God will continue to grow and change over time as I continue on this journey, but for now—at this point in my journey—the image of God as silence is a rich one for me. It’s one that I think I will continue to explore and learn from for a very long time.

What is your image of God?

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2 thoughts on “God as silence

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