By DANNY MINTON
To most of us, loud noises can be irritating. It started years ago when we were just babies. A loud bang, rattle or abrupt noise would send us off into a crying spell. We didn’t realize at the time what it represented, only that it was irritating and required us to express our lack of satisfaction with tears of fright or just being startled from a nice quiet sleep.
The sounds of traffic, honking car horns, sirens, and dogs barking irritate us as we try to rest and sleep. A roaring vacuum cleaner in the background disrupts our concentration. The rumble of thunder, the rush of wind and a flash of lightning turns our attention to concerns about possible damage to car and home.
That’s one thing that even the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” hated, the “Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!” As I write this, I have headphones on to keep the noise of the outside world from distracting my thoughts. Sometimes they work, sometimes the noise is so distracting that nothing can block its constant annoyance.
But regarding noise, do you know the loudest noise in existence? Earthquake? Hurricane? Volcano eruption? Someone yelling in your ear? While all of these are loud and can be annoying to us, none fall into the category of being the loudest. There is one noise that goes so far as to stop us in our tracks. It’s a noise so loud that we can’t ignore it. Though it stops us dead, it is one that no one objects to hearing. Instead, we remain spellbound, often for hours at a time taking it in. It’s never too loud for us, yet too loud to ignore.
The loudest sound in the world is the “silence” of God. It comes in several shapes and forms, sometimes in the middle of the day and often at night. We never tire of it, and I have never known of anyone who complained. Even those who don’t believe stop in the “silence” that is screaming at them.
It may in the shape of a rainbow. I have never heard anyone make a negative comment about a rainbow. There is absolutely nothing bad about one. It’s loud but doesn’t make noise. It has no obnoxious odor or hurt anyone’s feelings. It doesn’t make us too hot or cold or blow our hair out of shape. All it does is sit in the sky and act beautifully. It can make the depressed feel up and the sad, happy. We never wish it would go away but can stare it in awe for long periods of time.
There’s an old song by David Curloss whose lyrics speak to the sound of a rainbow. “What kind of music does a rainbow make? What kind of song does it sing? It’s a happy kind of melody, and it brightens everything. And a rainbow is a promise that God is in control. And a rainbow is a message that he’ll always keep my soul.” A rainbow loudly sings the song of God’s love for all people.
Again, you walk outside on a crisp evening and gaze upward, your eyes catching sight on a clear night of the tens of thousands of lights that dress the darkness. We lie on the grass or lean back in our lawn chair and gaze into a silence that screams to us of God’s wonderful world. As we gaze at the same stars David viewed so long ago, we can hear his words as he speaks of the majesty of God. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3,4) The heavens loudly proclaim in silence the power and majesty of the creator.
Elijah learned long ago where to look for God in a noisy, chaotic, world. He looked for him in the places that he knew he would be, yet could not find him. Then, he found him in the most unexpected place. In a time of depression, believing he was alone, God came to him, “What are you doing here Elijah?” he asked. To show him he was not alone God told Elijah he would pass by and here is what 1 Kings records. ‘“The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”’ (1 Kings 19:11-13) Elijah discovered God, not in the noise of a mighty wind or rumbling of an earthquake or even in the roaring fire. He discovered God in the silence of a whisper.
When we look for God in our lives, we often want to see him coming through like a roaring lion, loud and full of action. We ask “where is he?” when things aren’t going the way we want. We wonder as David did at times, “why has he abandoned us?” “Where is he when I need him?”
The answer is simple. God is always there in the silence of our lives. Maybe in a rainbow or a clear nighttime sky. Or maybe he’s there whispering in our ear. “I’m here, I love you, I will never leave or forsake you!” Our problem is most likely that we are looking in the wrong place not realizing that he is always with us, in the silence, making himself known when we take time to listen for his voice.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ