One evening as I drove home from work, I saw the setting sun blazing bright orange through the tall pines. It looked like a fire burning deep within the woods. My heart was restless that evening. A silent void had found its way into my soul and it needed some healing. Memories of Pastor Bob quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning came rushing to my thoughts,
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries
Had it not been so cold, I would have taken off my shoes and pursued the flame. It just felt like it had the potential to be a burning bush experience.
Every evening since, I look for that fire burning. Hoping that I might actually find a special encounter with God in the woods of Newport, MN. I don’t need the miracle as much as I need to hear the voice of God say, I have seen the misery of my people…” (Ex. 3:7) I do hear those words when I read scripture, sing hymns and pray. But just once I would like to hear God speak them directly to me. It might help them stick deeper into my soul.
God came to Moses because God saw the misery of Israel. It was a misery forced on them by Pharaoh. The misery I see around me and seek relief from is different. It is the inescapable misery of a bondage freely placed on ourselves. A bondage where silence causes panic. Sabbath rest leads to feelings of worthlessness and time on the internet produces a sense emptiness.
Technology cultivates a loneliness that often goes unperceived. Computers allow us the ability to feel productive when in truth we are often just filling time with idle activity. It helps us escape an in-depth look into our souls. We are afraid of finding that silent void deep within us because we’re not convinced there is a cure. Staying “busy” avoids the issue altogether.
Lord, you see the misery of your people, but can you save us from ourselves?
My heart yearns for koinonia. The Koinonia Community of my youth. The place where every day ended in the meditative silence of a Taize prayer service. I miss the stillness, reflection and peace of a disciplined community prayer life. Koinonia is also a Greek word meaning a special communion or community with God. My heart yearns for that koinonia as well.
Silence makes it impossible to quiet the thoughts and struggles that torments our souls. Silence in worship makes it impossible to keep Christ out of those areas we don’t want him to go. But silence in worship with others, reminds us we are not alone. Together we discover a burning bush – that God still speaks, I have seen the misery of my people and Christ still meets us with freedom.
The problem is silence still makes most us feel uncomfortable both in and outside of a sanctuary. I pray we can discover a way to embrace a spiritual experience we do not want, but need. The freedom of it feels so good.