A Thin Silence

thin silence quoteWritten in November 2010, inspired by a notation in the commentary of the Etz Hayim where it gave an alternate translation of G_d’s whisper to Elijah as…


Hunger sometimes feels like a sickness, a nausea that radiates from the gut to the back of the mouth with an anticipatory acid-twisted taste-memory of the last meal. It can fool you a little into thinking you have the flu, that you will get ill at the thought of food—except for the churning ache which makes you realize you are ill for the lack of food.

When we don’t pay attention to all the symptoms, we mistake the cure for the problem.

Every now and then—quite often, really—I get sick of G-d. It seems as if most of religion is a long-winded excuse for the inaction of the One who put us here, got us ultimately into this mess we call life, and has for all appearances abandoned us. OK, so maybe G-d shouldn’t step in and rescue us from ourselves, but what about natural disasters and disease? Things we have not yet learned to control…

It is this lack of control, perhaps, that pulls me back. When my life, my emotions, my stuck-inside-my-head habits get me spinning out of my management, one possible reality exalts itself to become the whole reality. I cannot see the forest for the tree.

In the midst of these times when the friction of my who scrapes against my whens, whys and hows, I become raw. I begin to bleed out from all the wounds ever received and never fully healed, every pain joins together inseparably and insufferably. I am filled with anger, despair, bitterness, and grief, and it all overflows in a torrent of emotion. There is weeping, there is fist-shaking, there are long, rambling journal entries full of self-loathing, doubt and dread. I keep questioning this benevolent G-d, railing at a cold and quiet heaven.

No answer.

How is it that a supposed omnipotent, omniscient and loving being could stand to remain silent when asked to speak? How could this G-d who claims the desire to draw all not respond to any invitation to interact? G-d’s silence on G-d’s behalf is disturbing and seems to only amplify doubts regarding power or existence. Which leads me to think all the more that I am alone, that life itself is meaningless. G-d’s silence in defense of G-d tears down my own scrambling efforts to create a comfortable sanctuary, a safe theology. I am shoved back onto the road and out of the camp. The excuses for G-d’s incomprehensible behavior ring hollow, and religion has proved useless as a security blanket.

This friction wears me thin—the bleeding out leaves me weak, the weeping leaves me dry, the fist-shaking leaves me tired, and the rambling of words leaves me empty. And in this thinness comes silence.

//Cover your face.
Cast away signs and wonders;
power is not in storms or earthquakes or fire.
Cast away signs and wonders;
miracles are in the quiet spaces.//

In silence, I am reminded I cannot force anyone to love me the way I want, and that I would not value the relationship where I could.

In silence, I discover I have been poured out so I may receive; that in the pushing out of the fullness of my emotions I was unable to hold anything else close to my heart.

In silence, my railing has given way to listening; the cold and quiet heaven becomes the kingdom-at-hand. The comfort I strove for by having answers for when, why and how becomes void in comparison to the freedom of the hush of being.

In silence, the excuses fall away and I am left with a relationship—messy and enigmatic—and one that I find to be the most meaningful of my life, one that shapes and colors all other relationships.

In silence, I realize I was never wanting G-d to speak, just to listen. And in the quiet space, in a thin silence, comes the miracle of realizing G-d has loved me, has made listening to me more important than defending himself.

In silence, G-d has rescued me from myself.

In silence, I discover I’m hungry, not sick.