Two nights ago I finally made it down to the lake. It was very different from what I'm used to. There is usually a cacophony of sounds from birds singing to cicadas chirping in the trees to boats paddling across the lake. But this night, everything was still. No cooling breeze. The water was like glass...not a ripple crossed the surface. And few people were out and about. The mosquitoes weren't even on the hunt. It was...strange. And the silence was deafening.
As I sat and watched and listened, I slowly began to see the slightest of movements...a turtle's head broke the surface of the water and disappeared. Then I heard a splash and turned my head in time to see a fish jumping. In the distance I finally heard the faint but familiar noise of cicadas. If I had left even a minute sooner, I might have gone away believing that nothing was going on...that everything was unnaturally and completely still.
Suddenly I had a thought. How often is my prayer life like this? I come to God with a certain level of expectation, but everything is different. God seems silent. It feels...strange, unfamiliar, unsettling. When I don't take the time to sit and listen for more than a few minutes, it's easy to walk away upset because I'm convinced God isn't there. Why would he leave me? Where did he go?
But that's not how God operates. His word says he'll never leave or forsake us. While we may not see or hear him straight away, he's always there. Sometimes it's just for a day or two. Sometimes it's longer. But we can't lose heart. Knowing that he is true to his promises, we need to take the time to watch and wait. When we're patient, when we continue to seek despite the outward appearance of circumstances, that's when we notice that he is moving...just below the surface. And when we quiet our voice and take a break from lamenting one thing or another, we can hear him.
You know you have a real understanding of someone when you can both sit in silence and it's not awkward. Besides, sometimes, silence is necessary. Sometimes, silence is healing. Sometimes, when silence is shared, it deepens the relationship.
I went back to the lake last night. Just 24 hours made a huge difference. Everything was 'back to normal'. It was the same bench, the same water, the same trees, the same me...but the silence was broken and the level of activity was high from the moment I arrived. Was one situation better than the other? I'd say no, because the temporary silence taught a valid and necessary lesson. God is always with us, always on the move...just because we can't see, hear or feel him for a time doesn't mean it's not so.