The one thing that most people know about me is that I am a very loud person. My husband can attest to this. I almost never stop talking until the moment that I drop off to sleep. So the one thing about the wilderness that has always made me squirm in my seat is the idea of the silence. I don’t like to sit in the silence and I don’t like to be silent. Even when I am alone, I am usually listening to music or singing to myself as I go about my day. So this week as I read this passage from Psalms in conjunction with the parable from Luke about the prodigal son, I was made to contemplate those times of silence as we wander through the wilderness. I thought of the silence Christ experienced during his 40 days in the wilderness and the silence we feel when we wander through those times in life when we can’t feel nor see God.
This is what our Psalms reading is all about. David was going through some difficult times when he wrote this passage. We don’t know exactly what was happening in his life. But something was going wrong and he wasn’t able to bring himself to speak with God. He wasn’t able to hear God’s words. So he sat in the silence. He sat with his pain like Job did and suffered. When we are in those times it is hard to see the end in sight. It feels as if it might last forever. But it won’t. We are promised new life. We are promised that our time of wondering will come to an end as it did for Jesus in his temptations in the wilderness, and as it did for the Israelites after 50 years in the desert.
Anyone who has ever suffered from migraines knows just how loud and overwhelming silence can become. This past week my allergies for the season of spring kicked in much earlier than they ever had before, and for me this triggers migraines. So I darkened the entire house, put on sunglasses, and laid down with a hot pad to try to ease the pain a bit. And even though the house was quiet, I felt as if everything was screaming at me all at once. I became all at once aware of the ticking of the clock on the wall in the living room which echoed through the house, the sound of the refrigerator running, the sound of our cable box making that grinding sound, the dog woofing in her sleep, and the sound of children walking home from the school bus. I could hear it all and it was all overwhelming.
The sounds that I normally would never even hear in a room, at any other time would have been too quiet for me, now was overwhelmingly loud and there was nothing I could focus my mind on. I believe the silence of the wilderness is very much like the silence during a migraine. This is the type of silence where all the temptations, the struggles, the cares of this life overpower the words of the Lord and we feel as if God is silent without realizing that we have let God be drowned out by life’s background noise. We get so caught up in our own day to day lives that we forget to pray and to focus our hearts and this is the silence spoken of in Psalms 32.
We enter in and out of these periods of wandering throughout life. We all become the prodigal son. We all lose our way distancing ourselves from all that is important living life only for what we think we want, desperately searching for something more without even realizing that it was always right there all along. We walk away from the Holy walking right into a time of personal wilderness without fully knowing what we are doing.
But even when we are silent in our conversation with God, even when we can no longer hear the words of the Lord, God is still reaching out to us waiting for us to come back home to him. Ready to accept us back when we are ready with open arms and forgiveness for the mistakes we have made. Many people wonder what the parable of the Prodigal son has to do with Psalm 32, and I would say both deals with forgiveness. Forgiveness for when we fail to believe, for when we wander away, for when other concerns take over our lives. Forgiveness for when the silence of the wilderness becomes too much to bear and we forget where to find our solace. Forgiveness for when the frustrations of life seemingly take over.
We all need forgiveness. We all have our flaws, our times of faithlessness, and those times when we fall silent. Yet God does not punish us but waits to accept us back, to comfort our hearts, and to raise us up when we hit that point where we have nowhere else to turn for solace but him. David did this by opening up to God: not to his priest, not to the people he may have wronged, but to God. He came before God humbly, broken by the world and the mistaken decisions he made. God was merciful to David, and like a parent, embraced him and brought him home. The prodigal son asked for his inheritance, spent it living what he thought was the high life, a life in the world. Ultimately, he found himself alone, in the wilderness wandering with no direction, alone in the silence without the comfort of even family. Yet when he finally hit his rock bottom, realizing what his life had become, he turned back hoping just to be a slave in his father’s home. Yet his Father, who represents God, did not accept him as a slave but as his son. He forgave the wanderings and the mistakes his son had made. So too when we wander, when we become silent, when the world has distracted us from all that is truly important, God is never too far away. God is there waiting with open arms to bring us home once more. For remember the promises of our scriptures, “for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate”. No matter how lost we become, God will always find us and bring us home. So this week take some time away from the noise of life, and pray, even if you feel that it’s been too long or that you don’t know what to say just start with the basics and you just might find that the silence you may be feeling will become filled with the Holy.
 Luke 15: 24, NRSV.
(based on Psalm 32 and Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32)