Archive for the 'Silence' Category

Giving God the Silent Treatment

Recently I asked for feedback about topics I wanted to address in this space. My firend Lois spoke up first. She wanted to hear abou the woman who prayed her way through a tough time. Actually, she wanted to hear how little I knew about how a woman prayed. But I don’t presume to know how a woman, or any person, prays beyond what they share publicly.

In fact, I don’t claim any special knowledge of the workings of the female species. If I claimed any expertise in the field of Mars-Venus relations, I might point to nearly 45 years of marriage to the same woman. But my greatest learning from this lifetime of experience has been this–Any man who claims authoritative knowledge in this field simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know!

Now about this woman who gave God the silent treatment: Celeste Peterson’s daughter Erin was one of 32 people killed in the April 16. 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University. Losing one’s child is always excruciatingly painful. Having it happen because of such senseless violence must be nearly unbearable.

That unbearable pain struck Celeste Peterson and her husband on April 16, 2007. They were solid, well-grounded lifetime Christians. Erin had caught their contagious faith at an early age and continued to mature in Christ. When she went off to college, Mom and Dad watched and prayed eagerly to see what God would do in their daughter’s life–until it ended suddenly and tragically.

Celeste’s honest and frequent conversation with God shriveled to grudging acknowledgment of God’s presence: “Thank you for this day. I’m not talking to you. Amen.” We talk about experiencing the silence of God in our prayer life. But Celeste says, “I know you’re there–and I’m not talking to you.” She turned the tables. It’s God’s turn to wait on her silence. The Good News is that God waits as long as necessary.

One day the Silent Treatment ended. Celeste was ready to talk. No, I don’t know how long it took. Celeste says that when she reopened divine-human relations, “I never felt like I had missed a beat. He knew how I was feeling at the time.” God’s first words weren’t “It’s about time, young lady” or “How do you think I feel being ignored?” God said simply, “Welcome back. I’ve missed our talks.” Recently we visited with friends we hadn’t seen in years. We were able to pick up right where we’d left off. We were immediately comfortable with each other. What a great gift! Celeste’s experience suggests that such a welcome waits for all of God’s estranged friends.

“I told [God] that I thought he left me high and dry,” Celeste says, “And he told me that he had a plan.” Gotta love these two friends’ honesty! I doubt that God offered an explanation for the tragedy. We wouldn’t understand this side of heaven. I don’t think the “plan” God had was a detailed blueprint going back to the beginning of time. I suspect the plan was more like, “Yes, what happened to your daughter and all those other people was an unspeakable tragedy. But human freedom is also part of my plan. Now, use your freedom to work with me and we’ll bring great good out of this terrible event.”

That’s God’s Godness. God’s power brings great good out of monstrous evil–a way where there is no way; light in the darkness; life out of death. God’s plan included Erin’s parents forming the Erin Peterson Fund. This non-profit organization provides college scholarships to deserving high school students. God’s plan included the “jubilant gospel concert” the Petersons and their church held on the first anniversary of the shooting and every year since. The concert celebrates Erin’s life and her commitment to helping others. The plan also includes the Petersons’ active involvement in the community of those impacted by the Virginia Tech shooting. Their hopeful presence must have opened up some dialog, perhaps even helped some folks resume–or begin–conversations with God.

Sometimes life hits us so hard that we don’t want to talk–to God or anyone else. Just this morning I heard that a friend may have fallen into that category. When it happens–not “if”, but “when”–go ahead and give God the silent treatment if that’s where you are. Know that God waits with us through our silence and waits for us on the other side of our silence. Know that all God asks is that we be ourselves–the ones God already knows and loves more than we comprehend.

But don’t think that’s the end of it. God waits with you through the silence. God has much more for you on the other side of your silence. Expect God to take the worst moments in life and bring out of them more good than we dare to imagine.

 


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