It’s amazing what can happen when you cut the silence.
Right now, I am sitting on an eerily quiet plane with hundreds of people contorted into economy seats just hoping for a few hours of sleep. I’m hoping, too. To prove it, I’m wearing my first-ever eye mask, courtesy of British Airways. It’s giving me a happy little black hole to attempt to sleep in, covering up the Russell Crowe flick that’s flickering on a dozen tiny screens around me.
As I sit with a paper pillow bunched between my cheek and the headrest, a plastic-wrapped blanket padding my knee that’s balanced precariously on the armrest, I think about how I am so close to sleep I can taste it. I can taste it like I still taste that lemon ginger crunch grossness I had for dinner, despite washing it down with a good ol’ cup of British tea. I’m so close I can feel those wavy lines in my brain. You know the ones. I don’t dare move – the balance is so delicate that if it’s disrupted, there’s probably no recovery.
I’m wondering if this eye mask is going to leave an elastic crease in my hair, which is going to have to make it through meeting my new British peeps tomorrow. Then I wonder – if the answer is in fact yes, will that make me look like a pirate?
I wonder if we’ll all look like pirates.
I’m pretty sure any attempts at succumbing to the black waviness was lost when the man two seats away from me yawned at the decibel level of a riding lawnmower. The lady behind me came out of a coma and started jabbering about Manhattan. Someone jerked a pair of iPod headphones so spastically it hit me in the face like a bullwhip.
I pulled off my pirate-hair maker. Geez.
It’s a lost cause.
Sad. I could’ve really used some sleep on this flight. I’m beyond exhausted. It’s been an amazingly wonderful love-filled, people-filled last few weeks in America. I found myself on a goodbye tour of the Southeast that ended up back in Birmingham. I was spent. In a good way.
As I stood there at my church that last Sunday morning and let the songs wash over me like a balm, I wept. How humbling it was to be back in the place where God had broken the silence a year and a half ago and broken me for the nations and the lost, just as I’d begged for Him to do in my apathetic heart.
The sermon wrapped up nine months of study of the Old Testament, with the promise of starting the New Testament this coming Sunday. Not a lax thing.The Old Testament ended with prophets railing people about their lack of commitment and even beating people up and pulling their hair over their blatant sin.
And then came 400 years of silence. 400 YEARS of hearing nothing from God. 400 years before Christ showed up on the scene.
To close the service, a timer on the screen started ticking down the 400 years symbolically, one year per second. 400. 399. 398. 397. We sat in silence for a long time contemplating what it must have been like to have not heard from God in 400 years.
As the numbers ticked and the worship leader began to sing “come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free…” I began to think about the people overseas to whom the Savior has yet to come, to whom the deafening silence – longer than 400 years; instead, all of history – has yet to be broken.
A lost cause, unless someone goes.
Back in July, when I contemplated my life and where it was headed, wondering if I could handle the vast change and blank slate of following Him wherever He led, I remember that no matter what else I was feeling, it was overwhelmed and overshadowed by the humbling gift and responsibility of having the gospel. On July 30, I penned simply this in my journal: “How humbling a thought that by grace I have this Word when so many people have never had the opportunity to hear. May that fact burn in my heart more than anything I might miss in my past, or any adventure I might be looking forward to.”
May the silence beckon louder to me than anything else life has to offer. And may it be with the burning, gripping desire to see it shattered into a thousand pieces.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1-2)