It’s awfully quiet down here
by Margaret Tazioli editor-in-chief
My God is a silent god. He no longer speaks to me. Not that I’m sure he ever did.
I lie in the grass — feeling the irritated prickle of individual blades against my back — and look up at the sky. Tree branches frame a small square of blue above me. I close my eyes.
Is that God whispering in the wind?
I strain to listen.
Or maybe that is his voice in the fading rumble of a passing vehicle.
I listen harder still.
Maybe he is speaking in the rhythmic vibrations of the cicadas call. Or perhaps … I doze off in the afternoon sun.
When I open my eyes, I notice a young sapling planted in fresh soil right beside me. I count the leaves on its tremulous branches. There is one small leaf right in front of my face. I stare at it — memorizing the lines webbing across its surface, studying the way it turns translucent when the sun strikes it just so.
Paul writes that God’s eternal power and divine nature are evident in what God has made. People are without excuse, Paul says. But if creation is evidence of a maker, where is his voice? Even in this stillness I cannot hear Him.
Straining for the tingle of something greater — something more — I look at this leaf, but all I see is a leaf. And now I wonder, is that really such a bad thing?
After all, why can’t a leaf just be a leaf?
“Good morning, Willis. Nice to see you, Ron. You’re looking beautiful today Lola. Rhonda! I haven’t seen you in a while.”
I walk into a room that smells strongly of something I cannot quite identify. There is dried oatmeal on a resident’s shirt and bloodstains on a man’s chin where he cut himself while shaving. Crusted food is stuck to the walls and there are a number of unidentified substances spilled on the floor. This is Heritage Anglican Church. My church. The place where I serve as layperson pastor.
Twenty or so of us meet every Saturday morning in the activity room of a facility that considers itself part nursing home and part rehab center.
Willis is a black man with piercing blue eyes. His skin is taut over sharply angled bones and oxygen tubes hiss air through his nostrils.
Ron is a middle-aged Japanese American. He used to have a job and a home but lost both after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed and bankrupt.
Rhonda is young with a lovely figure and a warm smile. Her mind is sharp, but cerebral palsy has left her unable to move or speak well enough to care for herself.
Lola has wispy white hair she wears under a pink beret with a matching pink petticoat. She walks over and stops just a few inches from my face. She grasps my hand between both of her own. “Oh Margaret,” she says slowly, her face grinning in delight. “I love listening to you sing. You have the voice of an angel.” The others nod in agreement.
Her compliment is appreciated, but surely misguided. My guitar strings are rarely in tune and my voice cracks every time I try to sing a high note.
Lily is another one of our regular attenders. She doesn’t speak a word of clear English, her mind eaten away by some disease or other. But, when we start to sing one of her favorite hymns, she leads our motley choir.
Even though I have never heard God clearly speak, I have seen Him at Heritage. I have seen Him in the faces of Willis and Lola and Ron and all the others.
All of these people, bound to wheelchairs, no family or money to their names: what can they do for God? Why should he love and care for them? In fact, by outward appearances, it would even appear God has abandoned them to a dismal fate in this state facility.
But the continuation of that small weekly worship service is a miracle in itself. God provides for that congregation, and their simple worship reminds me that God is faithful to those who honor him. Even if he is silent.
This piece is considered a “standard” column in our print edition.
heart of the matter: discussions of faith and culture
by Margaret Tazioli, editor-in-chief