The Sound of Thin Silence

Kol demama daka is a Hebrew phrase we have translated ‘still, small voice’ and it’s from 1 Kings 19: 9-14. The sound of thin silence.

The still small voice was given to Elijah after he complains to God (and I don’t blame him at all) that all of God’s prophets have been killed by Jezebel and he alone survives. Have you ever been there, thinking you are the lone survivor and you aren’t sure how much longer you can hold on alone? Clearly, those of us parenting children from trauma backgrounds have been in a similar feeling situation many times over. Without a solid tribe of people to share our burdens with, we very much can believe we are the only ones facing an insurmountable task or life or something that no one else has to deal with.

For Elijah, God sent a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire, to teach Elijah that His voice was in none of them. After all of those really big expressions of nature, (which of course Elijah and you and I would expect to hear God within those events) God spoke to Elijah in the sound of thin silence. Kol demama daka. I wonder how long Elijah sat within that thin silence. If I was expecting to hear God in the big things, I’d be a little disappointed when He didn’t come through.

I am imagining Elijah’s time alone, after expecting God to show up in wind, earthquake, or fire. And I am already getting antsy. I’m an introvert, so I do like to spend time alone, to recharge, but I also orchestrate many activities to ‘record’ over the sound of thin silence. I overlay the sounds of busyness, taking care of family, dealing with the cares of the world, writing, and even ‘good deeds’ done in God’s Name. Thin silence makes me nervous for some reason.

Thin silence is where I can hear the condemning thoughts in my own head, thoughts of unworthiness, of missing out on what others have or do, of fears for the future of my now-adult children. Thin silence is a wilderness where I most feel alone.

I think I want the voice at Sinai instead. The giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai was a unique moment in the religious history of mankind. Instead of one lone witness to the voice of a ‘god’ who then tells others what he heard, we have an entire nation witnessing The Voice.

The power and majesty of God at Sinai was unmistakable. No matter what the people were doing, when the Voice sounded, it was so significant to their senses that they stopped in their tracks and experienced it. It didn’t matter what distractions they had come up with to cover the thin silence that nobody thinks they want, His Voice came through loud and clear. At Sinai, He broke though their distractions and competing idols, and defense mechanisms that they had in place while they continued to think of themselves as slaves to Egypt. Through no effort on their part, they heard His Words loud and clear. They didn’t have to lay down the distractions, so mighty was His voice. That’s what I want. I want all of my distractions to keep me company until God speaks. And then I want the utter magnitude of His Voice to overpower those other things in my life that I hold dear, so that I get the best of both worlds. My way until God speaks, and then I can easily hear Him. Or so I think I want this.

We’re told of the account on Mt. Sinai there was thunder and lightning, “and the people are afraid…“and they tremble”…“and they stand a long way away”. And they say to Moses, ” You go and speak to God; if we continue to hear His voice we will die.” His Voice is that powerful. At the sound of His voice, they were so terrified of closeness to Him that they begged for a mediator instead of direct experience.

Do I really want that after all? Or would I rather have His closeness? What do I have to give up for that closeness? I think maybe I have to brave the sound of thin silence.

Elijah, in his time of need, his time of feeling quite alone, gets a voice he can hear only if he is truly listening. He must venture into the thin silence where his alone-ness might be deafening. But that is where God was for him.

Laying down the distractions to hear the sounds of thin silence takes concentrated effort on your and my part. But maybe you have been conditioned to believe that active efforts to draw close to God are akin to ‘dead works’ and heaven forbid you or I substitute works for grace. And so we feel justified to keep our distractions intact and we wait for God to shout when He wants our attention. We wait for wind, earthquake, and fire. But what we get is kol demama daka.

So now what? What actions do we need to do to draw close to God when He is not in the wind, an earthquake, or a fire? We’re going to have to lay down our distractions and get quiet enough and still enough to hear God in kol demama daka. Laying them down is not a passive action! Do you know what I have found is a powerful weapon against distractions? Gratitude to God for the things He has done for me and my loved ones. Gratitude is a powerful force that drowns out the angst of the day and allows me the courage to enter the thin silence. Being reminded that Elijah has been here too helps me for some reason, even though he lived so long ago.

Maybe you would like to try the practice of gratitude as a way to enter kol demama daka to hear God? Just start recounting His great deeds. Start with your own life, then the lives of your loved one. Recount His deeds from the pages of scripture. Say it silently, or out loud. Say it to Him. And before you know it, you are so filled with wonder and awe at what He has done and Who He is, that you stop thinking about your worries. Then be silent. And just be in that thin silence. You are not alone there after all. He is there with you. You’ll hear Him. He has a lot He wants to say to you.

Do you have another practice to get quiet with Him? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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