Silence and the wilderness

Throughout the past few months I have been on this interesting trail of seeking silence. I took myself to see the movie Silence, about the Christian monks who ventured to Japan to bring the gospel of faith. Two days later I had tickets, which I had booked last November, to go and see a documentary movie called, In Pursuit of Silence. Something inside me was seeking to silence the voices and even the vices of modern living and well, my own living out some of the harsh realities of winter.

I find it ironic that it’s at these times that ‘wilderness season’ would have been my go to for how to name it, and i’m not saying thats not accurate. It’s ironic though because in biblical hebrew wilderness is the word Midbar and this comes from the root hebrew word “to speak”. It’s almost a given that the absence of sound direction is designed so that a space can be created where you don’t know where you are going, and it won’t be like a sat nav when the voice starts speaking either. You have to remove and be removed from the distractions of where you have been, where you think you have been and then walk in a palpable presence that is near impossible to describe. It’s void of words and yet full of them, all at the same time!

It seems that maybe my understanding of what the wilderness is has, in the past, been something that has stopped me from truly experiencing it. The first person in the bible to be described as going into the wilderness is Hagar. She was a female, Egyptian slave and really had no where else to go. In Genesis 16 v 7 Hagar “was found by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.” An angel of the Lord found her there and asked her “Where have you been and where are you going?” She answered that she was fleeing from the presence of her mistress, she only answered one part of the question. The account unfolds and she is instructed to go back to her mistress and submit.

The words were there, in the midst of the wilderness and it was here that she spoke her experience of the Lord in that place. “You are a God who sees”. There is far more I could say but it seems that her fleeing, her thirst and her distress was seen and a drought in her soul was quenched by a God who sees it all. I feel like we often miss the repetition of the word “spring” used here as well….but that’s probably another blog post.

You see, the jury might be out on who it is that we expect to hear in the wilderness of our lives. My sense is that it is a qualitative voice of something greater than ourselves, God, the Father and the creator, and yet moving inside all of this it is also as if the sound of our own voices starts to resonate differently within us. That the empty space created may create echoes when we first start to speak but then the tent pegs expand and it doesn’t feel like a cave anymore. The breath can fly and the wilderness strengthens us to return and go forward all at the same time.

May the wilderness not be a place that we fear but rather a place where we know our deepest cries and needs are met. May we have courage to remain in silent presence, the presence to hear His voice and the wisdom to start speaking as we become ever present to words found in and around us.

In Pursuit of Silence is now a song. It is currently a demo and is part of my new album project. To find out more and to hear my heart behind the song click here.


Sally Cranham