Speech to Silence

I love sleeping with the windows open, although in Baltimore it rarely happens because the summers are generally so hot.  It reminds me of when I was growing up, in Binghamton NY, a much cooler climate.  My bedroom was on the third floor of the house, my bed right next to two large windows, a big oak tree right outside.  On summer nights, with those windows open, I almost felt like I was sleeping up in that old tree, its leaves blowing in the breeze.

Last night it was quite cool here in Baltimore, so we had the windows open in the bedroom.  As I was falling asleep I could hear two large frogs calling to each other.  One would croak, then the other, back and forth, back and forth.  It was so loud I was considering closing the windows to keep out the sound, but feel asleep, dreams of High Holy Day sermons in my head.

I woke up about two in the morning.  Lying in bed and listening, I realized it was totally quiet.  The frogs had stopped their calling, no crickets chirping, not a noise.  The distinction caught my attention.  From sound to silence, from noise to nothing.  

It reminded me of the Jack Miles book “God A Biography.”  He traces God’s character in the Hebrew Bible, and in part discovers that God gets quieter and quieter as the Bible goes on.  The God of Genesis speaks all the time.  The God of Exodus speaks, and also is a God of action.  But then a God who slowly but surely becomes silent.  In the Book of Job God speaks for the last time in the Bible.  In the book of Esther God doesn’t even appear.   

I wonder if the editor of the Bible, the person (or people) who put the final version of the text together, was reflecting in this his own experience of God.  Perhaps he knew a quiet God, a God you listen for in the middle of the night but rarely if ever hear.  Subtly, carefully, delicately, he reflected that sense of God as he structured what would become known as the Greatest Story Ever Told.  

Of course we still listen and look, all these years later.  Even if we don’t hear, we sense, we feel.  There are moments when our souls are called.  A vision at the edge of our sight, a soft murmuring sound as we fall asleep.  If we pause to look or listen, it is gone. But the echo stays with us.

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