I sit on the floor surrounded by Bible commentaries, devotional books, Bibles, and several e-mails from my friend Carolyn, who always reminds me that she is praying for me. I am trying to understand why my prayer has not been answered, trying to understand heaven’s silence.
* * *
A daily task engrained by my parents since childhood: start your day with prayer. I kneel and lay out my day to my heavenly Father. I present the challenges I am facing: working with difficult people, constant awareness, and prayer for grace to be an example.
But I am troubled. My chaplaincy work has reminded me of how fragile we are. In the past two weeks four hospice children under the age of 10 have succumbed to death. I don’t understand it. My teaching job reminds me of both the good and evil in the world, as I see young people who know nothing of God try to make ethical decisions in their lives while suffering unspeakable tragedies and difficulties.
Volunteering with Meals on Wheels two days ago broke my heart, as I helped deliver food and found out that elderly individuals care more for sustenance of the soul (company and conversation) than sustenance of the body. But there were so many meals to deliver. I feel at a loss. So I pray: Dear God, be my light; lead me to where You want me to be.
I pause. It’s not there. The peace; the overwhelming peace I often feel when I pray. I am praying for hope to give to others, and hope to sustain me in what appears to be, at the moment, a dark world. I am praying for guidance. Holy Spirit, where are You?
With nothing left to say, I wonder, Did He hear me?
* * *
At the campus library I reach for the etymology dictionary. Silence. I have the promise: “Because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14). I feel that I have more to give to this mission of faith. Where am I supposed to be?
I find the entry: Silence. “Silere; to be quiet or to be still”; “absence of sound”; “avoidance of speaking of something”; “a state of standing still.”1 I keep reading through the definitions, the era, how the word became; then I see it: “silence (silence) to enhance vision by offering no sound.”2 To observe?
I walk out of the library. The beautiful water fountain and benches perfectly placed in shaded areas beckon me. I have to think. I have to pray.
My desire for solitude is interrupted. Students walk by, sit, and chat. One of them is getting married and shows me a picture of her wedding dress. Another student walks by, and I end up seeing birthday pictures from his son’s first birthday. Twenty students stop by for pleasant conversation, laughter, and camaraderie.
“To enhance vision by offering no sound,” said the dictionary. It’s a simple, obvious definition, a new definition, my definition: Silence: to open your eyes and truly see what is in front of you, to do the best you can to the glory of God, to stand still with no fear of the quiet.
* * *
End of day; I gather my office mail. Just one little envelope has my name written on the front in beautiful handwriting. Inside is a notecard with the inscription: Isaiah 43:1-3.
I remember my prayer: “Lead me where You want me to be.” No silence, just a reminder of an answer, a promise.
“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God” (KJV).
- Oxford Etymology Dictionary.