The psalm appointed for today, Psalm 62, includes the phrase: “For God alone my soul in silence waits”; however another translation of this text is: “Before God, I am silence.” Not, “I am silent”; but rather, “Before God, I am silence.” And therefore, when God speaks, I am silence: I am an empty, open vessel to receive. Our life’s invitation is to learn to “be silence” so we have space to receive the work and words of God. It is a good thing to cultivate stillness and silence within ourselves.
But for many people, life seems to lose its cultivation because of suffering. We witness, and we may personally experience, tremendous suffering, loss, fear, grief, despair that may simply leave us or others speechless and empty, feeling very much alone and abjectly vulnerable. This is the silence that visits the elderly who have lost their health, lost their companions, lost their meaning in life; the silence of those who are very sick with no help at hand and the silence of those who are very sick with help at hand; the silence of those who are imprisoned because of prejudice and racism, and those imprisoned behind bars; the silence of those who live with inexpressible shame. So many people experience a silence that is unbidden and which may seem to them so vapid, despairing, orphaning.
This is where we turn this psalm inside-out. This is where we take the psalmist’s counsel to “be silence” not just as prescriptive but also as descriptive. When we find ourselves silenced, when we have lost our voice or our ability to hear, when any movement we might take in life is being held captive, at those times we cling to hope. When we are in an intractable, unavoidable, unchosen state of silence and stillness, to cling to the hope that we are in a state well known to God.[i] This is familiar territory to God, where our emptiness is actually openness to God, especially when we have no other choice. This is when we are in a place of hearing and knowing God.
[i] “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
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