Occasionally when I am with people who are having a tough time, they will ask me, “is that all there is?” Often it is in the experiences of illness, or bereavement that people will ask the big questions of life (and death). We are all too aware of our own stories of finitude and failure. We yearn to hear a word of truth, spoken in humility, of the truth about sin and brokenness, death and despair – the truth about the shadow side of living. Listening to such questions I am struck by the fact that what we sometimes need to find is the courage to look into the mirror of our own imperfection. Because it is there – in the glare of the truth – that we most experience the grace, tenderness, and touch of God. It is there that we discover how utterly dependent we are upon our utterly dependable God. It is there that we can feel safe.
The story is told of a traveller who was lost in the desert. As he wandered for days, he became more parched and disoriented. Up hills and down hills and through the bitter night and the blistering day, he searched for water. But he found nothing. Finally, he stumbled and fell and found no more energy to get up and try again. He lost all hope of survival.
It was only then that he began to pay attention to the utter silence around him – to the sound of total silence in the desert. With consciousness fading away, he suddenly heard something – a sound so faint that only sheer silence could detect it. It was the sound of running water. Revived by hope, the traveller dragged his body towards the sound and soon immersed himself in a pool of fresh, cool water.
What is the cacophony of worries, pressures, and obsessions keeping us from slowing down and opening up and hearing the sweet silence of God? “Is that all there is?”
We are called to a discipline of humility as Christians, a journey of wandering, a blessing of mortality – trusting that God will meet us in the shadows and feed us in the barren places. Be bold to receive this blessing and rejoice in God’s promise of finitude, fragility and eternal life.