The Other Side of Silence – Luke 1
By Megan Oldfield
That’s what I think as the hours dwindle before my deadline.
It’s Thursday, the day before this piece is due, and I’m under my blankets watching Downton Abbey with a box of Good & Plenty in one hand and Swedish Fish in the other wondering WWAVW? (What would Ann Voskamp write?)
It’s a picture of grace under pressure, really.
When I sat down to work on my post last weekend, I thought I had it under control. I intended to write my little heart out. But a massage scheduled for nine o’clock Saturday morning only afforded me enough time to read the four daily chapters.
That’s okay, I figured, I’ll meditate on some verses while my therapist’s working out the knots, and boy do I have me some knots. But then I fell asleep between the sheets of the warmed massage table and snored myself awake an hour and a half later. I blame Deuter and his dreamy new age music.
That afternoon, distracted by all the electronic devices dangling off my desk, I decided a quick trip to Lowe’s was in order. Five hours and a few grommets later, my husband turned my $50 desk from Fred Meyer into a sweet docking station for the whole family.
See? Isn’t it the coolest?
But still. Official word count at the end of the day: 0.
Sunday produced the same results, due in large part to an ugly, swollen sty that quarantined me to the couch where I could apply a warm compress every fifteen minutes. By Monday morning I started to feel panicky. I worried that I’d have nothing to publish come Friday, so I hunkered down in the predawn hours and tried desperately to knock out a few hundred words.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
The cursor mocked me. The commentaries confused me. And a surprise snowstorm canceled school and every plan I’d made for a productive day.
Then Tuesday blew by, and yesterday heralded another eight inches of snow.
So while the kids built a snow fort outside this morning, I turned the passages over and over again in my head, struggling to find anything worth sharing. Eventually I gave up, closed my laptop, and went outside to shovel the driveway.
And that’s when things got awkward.
A new neighbor and her daughter walked over to our yard to visit, and because I’m totally uncomfortable with any silence in conversations, I filled every last second of dead air between us with all manner of nonsense until she was coaxing her little girl back across the street to “warm up inside.”
I’m afraid this happens a lot with me, and apparently this social hang-up seeps into my spiritual life as well. I don’t like lulls in conversation – with friends, neighbors, or with God. They make me wildly uncomfortable.
That’s why I’m hiding under my covers right now, self-medicating with sugar and British television.
But just as I’m about to accept that all hope is lost, that I’m a fake, a phony, a failure, something speaks to me, as quietly as snow falling in February.
I turn to the first chapter of Luke again, and even though I know it’s the third gospel listed in the table of contents, historically speaking, the events described here follow the Old Testament timeline. That means the book preceding Luke is not Mark; it’s Malachi.
The time between the testaments is just the flip of a few pages in my Bible, but I remember reading somewhere that 400 years separate the time of Nehemiah from the birth of Christ. The fancy word for it is the intertestamental period, but sometimes they’re called the “silent” years. During this time, no prophet spoke a word from God, no poet penned a prayer, no historian recorded any world events for us in Scripture.
146,000 silent nights.
But on the other side of this silence, God was still active. He’s never up to nothing. Daniel’s prophesies were being fulfilled as history unfolded. World powers shifted from east to west, synagogues were established, and God’s people were watching and waiting, straining to hear His Voice through the silence.
I wonder if God wants me to experience the same thing. Maybe He wants me to endure for a few days what Israel did for four centuries. Silence. The weightiness of his wordlessness.
Hope springs from somewhere inside me as I read a fresh spin on the story of Zechariah, a man who had every right to be frustrated with God’s silence. Here’s a guy who faithfully serves God, who’s “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord (vs. 6).” But he and his wife, Elizabeth, “had no child (vs. 7).”
No doubt he shot countless prayers heavenward about his wife’s barrenness, only to assume they’d bounced back to earth unanswered.
But in Zechariah’s old age, when it’s his turn as priest to enter the temple to burn incense and pray, God breaks his 400-year silence with a birth announcement. He will have the son he’s always wanted, says the angel Gabriel, and “he will be great before the Lord (vs. 15).”
And though Zechariah doesn’t believe it at first (I mean, would you after 400 years of silence?), though the tables turned and God silenced him as a consequence for his distrust, God shattered the sound barrier nine months later with the cries of a baby boy, the baby boy named John who would one day “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (vs. 16-17).”
I close my Bible, this time relieved and grateful because I’ve discovered that inside this silence is the making of a great gift. Inside this silence I’ve experienced is the chance to exercise trust and patience like Zechariah, an opportunity to tune my heart to His voice and prepare a place for my Savior.
Now if I can just remember this the next time my neighbor comes over to chat.
For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)
Megan Oldfield is a writer, stay-at-home mom, and chronic user of the word, “Dude.” She earned a degree in television and film writing at Syracuse University, and while she once was a Web designer and television producer, she now homeschools and drives a mini-van, two things she swore she’d never do. Megan lives dangerously close to Hershey’s Chocolate World in rural Pennsylvania, along with her husband and three kids, and when she’s not feeding them or folding their laundry, she’s stringing words together about family, faith, marriage, and motherhood at her personal blog, RaineyDays.org.