Even in the Silence

Recently I was introduced to artist Makoto Fujimura. In exploring his works, I discovered his love for another artist, novelist Shusaku Endo. This admiration led to Fujimura becoming an advisor for the movie production based on Endo’s book Silence, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. With all this overlapping of creativity, I decided I would read the book and then watch the movie. Today I finished the book and managed to find the movie on demand to watch this afternoon.

First, let me say what a joy it is to receive the creative gifts by these three artists-a contemporary artist, a novelist, and a filmmaker. Not only are they masters at their craft, but they engage all of who they are into their work, including their faith and beliefs. Unafraid of transparency, they allow you into their wrestling and therefore make it acceptable for you to acknowledge yours.

Endo’s Silence is set in seventeenth-century Japan. The tale challenges your commitment to your faith as you follow two Portuguese Jesuit priests encounter the forced renouncing of beliefs by their Japanese Christian brothers and dialogue with a silent God. You are forced to acknowledge persecution has always been a part of Christian history and will always be, something we prefer to forget Jesus told his disciples to expect.

Such stories produce various responses. Responses usually focus on what ifs and reminders to not forget those currently experiencing persecution. My biggest response today is this: I am the sole guardian of my faith. It’s not up to the church, a pastor or priest, or anyone close to me to secure my faith. In decisive moments where I have to live out my faith, it’s entirely up to me. When my mind tells me I’m alone and God has abandoned me, my faith reminds me that he said “I am with you always,” even in the silence.

The Weapon of Silence

Now Joshua had commanded the people saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” -Joshua 6:10

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time the children of Israel had been told to be silent. Joshua’s predecessor had instructed them similarly when they were at the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:14).

In neither case is there a clear, precise reason noted for the silence. For instance, “You need to be quiet so the enemy doesn’t suspect what you’re doing,” or, “This is going to be a surprise attack.” Nope. It appears it’s much like a parent telling a child to just, “Step back, watch, and learn. Trust me. If you’ll stay out of the way, I will take care of this for you.” Not a bad thing, but suppose there is more to being silent than just staying out of the way. What if God is actually giving you a personal weapon that could serve you in all situations, and you just have to learn how to use it.

In the case of the Red Sea scene, they had to totally rely on God. They were not given anything to do. All they were to do was watch. In their silence, they had a weapon for building their faith. In their complete inactivity, they had the chance to allow silence to remove their fear and doubt and worry to replace it with wonder and awe and amazement. Silence became a weapon to build their faith.

Traipsing around Jericho’s walls, their weapon of silence offered a different use. This time God had already told them what he was up to. This time, they had to decide if they believed him. Silence was their personal weapon to choose to believe God, in what he’d promised, and in what he was doing.

What’s your Red Sea, your Jericho wall? It’s possible God is telling you the same thing. “I got this. You don’t need to say another word. Here’s your weapon. Build your faith in me.”

Protecting Your Bones (Psalm 32)

There are definitely times when we need to be still and silent before God. None of those times are when there is known sin separating us from Him. David says when he didn’t acknowledge his sin to God it impacted his body-“my bones wasted away.” Not good.

In our efforts to be healthy, we usually address diet and exercise. That entails being honest with our doctors or trainers about our choices which may be leading us away from good health. When we come clean, we show we are serious about getting healthier. David’s response to realizing his silence was not good was to “make a clean breast of my failures to God.”(verse 5, the Message)

We can’t ignore the truth that silence about our sins creates self-inflicted pain. If we want to protect our bones, our first step is to not be stubborn mules but to be honest confessors.(verses 9-11)