So I’m on my couch reading Working on God, and suddenly I came across an explanation for most of my experiences of God. Get this: it was from an interpretation of a story of Elijah from the First Book of the Kings. That’s right, people! Check out your Bible getting all interactive with me!
Anyway, the author (Winifred Gallagher) was talking about her experience at B’nai Jeshurun, a Conservative synagogue that shares its space with a Methodist church and takes a rather unusal perspective on community life and on the application of religious pluralism. While she was at one of the services, a rabbi talked about the story of Elijah, particularly his retreat after killing 50 of Jezebel’s priests. He described how God was not in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but instead in the quietness.
To us, says Rabbi Omer-Man, the wind, fire, and quake seem to signify God. To the Jewish mystics, however, they stood for speech, imagination, and emotion. For them, God was in the silence, he says, “because that’s the thing that allows you to reevaluate your life and make the necessary changes. Elijah had to be quiet before he could figure out that he needed to stop being so aggressive.” As it was for the prophet, so it is for us. “Only in silence can we find forgiveness,” says the rabbi. “We can’t change our past deeds, but in quiet we can reflect on them, and then change our future course.”
Wow, do I ever love that. Every moment I described in my previous post was a moment of real silence, not just not talking. And I think that’s why I have a rough time feeling God in church, unless music is involved: I can’t get to real silence there.