“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12
Elijah has fled to the desert afraid for his life. He had recently challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to prove whether Baal or God was in charge of the rain. God won that contest hands down which proved that He was the one to be worshiped. Then, in his enthusiasm, Elijah killed all (450 or so) of the prophets of Baal. Jezebel, the queen, a Phoenician princess married to King Ahab of Northern Israel, was not amused. She had already killed the prophets of God and now she tells Elijah that, in retaliation for his killing of her prophets, she will kill him before the day is done. For the full story read 1 Kings 18 & 19. Elijah flees to the wilderness. God finds him there in a cave and tells him to go outside and stand on the mountain because He is going to appear.
As Elijah stands on the mountain there is a strong wind, an earthquake and a fire-one after the other, noisy events all I would imagine, but God is not in any of them. After the fire there is the sound of sheer silence. I love the phrase, “sound of sheer silence” but I have trouble wrapping my mind around it even when I try.
Is this the silence that moves over the deep before God utters his first, “Let there be….” that begins creation? I find myself awestruck dumb with this thought as I try to comprehend God there before anything is there. The sound of Sheer Silence. How can I relate? How can I hear? I get goose bumps and the hair on my neck stands at attention.
The sound of silence is the Presence of God.
We are not able to hear Presence with noise all around. Presence is not heard in wind, earthquake or fire. We are only able to hear God with the ears of our heart when we spend some time in silence with him. Be still and know that I am God, he tells us. Tells me. “Be still.”
How can I be that still?
There are ways to help with stillness; Centering Prayer is the method that I use, but I have a very noisy mind. As an introvert, all the things I don’t say out loud speak to me in the silence— dinner menus, writing topics, people I know, people and events that need thoughtful prayer, conversations, the day past and the day ahead, whatever. The whirlwinds, earthquakes, and fires appear and thunder all around me. It is very difficult to hear Presence without some form of silent prayer, and I know that some practice of silence and solitude is a must for inner transformation into Christ-likeness. This is always true but especially so when we are in the wilderness with the loud voices. So I continue listening, I try to pay attention and sometimes I am still enough to hear God in the sound of silence. In Presence. The sound of Sheer Silence. And I am awestruck dumb in the hearing.
Stay still, dear ones.