Sifting In Silence

Nine months is a long time. Just ask my pregnant friends. They are many.

For nine months, Zechariah sat in silence, sifting and sorting the strange experiences that led up to that miraculous gestation.

Despite decades of faithfully serving God alongside his pious wife, the couple remained barren. As a priest, he spent his life ushering the concerns and needs of others into the presence of God; yet, it seems he struggled to believe that his own prayers were being ushered into God’s ears. He did not stop believing in God in general; but he seemed to struggle with God’s faithfulness specifically for a long-desired son.

How like Zechariah I often am, we often are! So often, while I say I believe God for the big things, I wrestle to trust him with the small, but deeply significant desires of my heart. I begin to operate on auto-pilot, doing the deeds of obedience but without the spirit of devotion and expectancy meant to accompany them.

Yet, the Lord sent an angel with news so incredible that it seemed too good to be true. Zechariah’s old heart was not sure it could handle another hope stirred only to become a hope deferred. He doubted, demanding a sign to strengthen his feeble faith.

The angel did not give him a sign, he prescribed something far better: a season of silence. The gift of time to sort and sift through his experiences with God throughout his life that were culminating in the incredible gift of an unexpected son.

I wrote this poem imagining that somehow Zechariah was alive when his set-apart son, John the Baptist was beheaded. He would have had another season of silence for sifting and sorting. Why would God allow this faithful servant to have such a violent and abrupt ending? Is that the way God rewards his faithful ones?

Yet, as Jesus said in his impromptu eulogy for his cousin John, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6). God writes strange stories full of wonder for those who trust and love him. They have twists and turns none of us would imagine, yet each story is written in confident love.

Things are not as they seem. For another Set-Apart Son entered our story and changed everything. His horrific ending on a cross enabled the beginning of our living hope. He knows a thing or two about sifting and sorting our stories in silence. He sits with us as we wait, wonder, and wrestle. He will stir our silence into songs of praise. He will make all things beautiful in His time!

Zechariah’s Song

Oh my Lord, how can this be?
An aged two becoming three?
Years of prayer, seemingly unheard,
Answered with an angelic word?

A decade ago, I might’ve believed,
But now I fear I’m being deceived.
It seems too hard, too good, too late,
Faith these fears cannot abate.

In silence, then, I’ll sit and sift,
Nine months to receive this gift.
My flagging faith grows strong,
As silence stirs a brand new song.

“The Lord our God, blessed is he!
He comes to set his people free!
All His words are deeply reliable,
His graciousness is undeniable!

Oh my Lord, how can this be?
A set apart servant was he.
Your forerunner of gladness
Beheaded in a wish of madness.

In silence long again I’ll stay
Trusting you will make a way.
His story was yours to write;,
You rule with mercy and might.

Stories of wonder God does weave
For those who in Him believe.
Seasons of silence lead to song,
As to glory He leads them along.

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