Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Silent and Sounding

When I can't feel you, I have learned to reach out just the same
When I can't hear you, I know you still hear every word I pray

The experience of God's presence should not be confused with the existence of his presence. Unfortunately, this confusion is all too often the case.

When we don't "feel" God, we wonder what is wrong. I think this is normal, but it is something we should work to correct within ourselves. God does not change with our mutability. He is constant. He never leaves.

By him, all is. He holds everything together. He sustains the universe.

He is there, and he is not silent.

Even when we don't have the experience of his presence, it is still present.

I think Michael Ward's explanation of silence in his book Planet Narnia nicely relates to the silence we often feel occurs with God:

"For Lewis there were two kinds of silence, the good and the bad. The bad kind features in the title of the first volume of his Ransom Trilogy (1938-1945), Out of the Silent Planet. The silent planet is Earth, out of which comes the hero of the trilogy, Dr Elwin Ransom, on a journey to Mars. He discovers that, in the language of Mars, Planet Earth is know as thulcandra. Earth is thulc ('silent') because she does not join in the music of the spheres. Earth's presiding 'the Bent One' who has nothing to say or sing to the other planetary angels. Earth's silence is a dumb silence, a dead silence.

"Mars and all the other planets are also silent, as far as the inhabitants of Earth are concerned, but for a different reason. It is not because these other planets are sullenly mute that they are not heard. On the contrary, they are not heard because their singing in is perpetual. As Lewis explained in an address entitled 'Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages':

[The music of the spheres] is the only sound which has never for one split second ceased in any part of the universe; with this positive we have no negative to contrast. Presumably if (per impossible) it ever did stop, then with terror and dismay, with a dislocation of our whole auditory life, we should feel that the bottom had dropped out of our lives. But it never does. The music which is too familiar to be heard enfolds us day and night and in all ages.
"In the pre-Copernican model of the cosmos the planets were silent and sounding at the same time: their music was not heard on earth because it was always heard. And it is this sort of silence, a pregnant silence, resonant with significance," that I believe God's presence is to us. Unlike the singing of the planets, however, sometimes God allows us to "feel" him in a more experimental way than normal life accustoms us to. These times should be cherished, but we should not think we are less spiritual when we only have his perpetual, sustaining presence in our lives - what an undeserved blessing and magnanimous gift!

Song lyrics from Brooke Fraser's Faithful
Michael Ward, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, (Oxford: Oxford Press, 2008), 21-22.

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