A Thin Silence
I’ve spent most of my life searching for a sense of home. Like many in our contemporary society, I’m plagued by a feeling of rootless wanderlust, a quietly simmering discontent. Like others, I’ve wondered if the antidote might be found in alternative ways of living. In his book Utopian Dreams, Tobias Jones describes his search for such a place after a breakdown:
"I can’t stay here. I’m stepping off the exhausting, hedonistic treadmill… I’m suffering from an inability to stop and belong. Where I stand used to be the center of my world, but the world has shrunk exponentially. Now, instead of feeling at home where I am, I imagine home is wherever I’m not. We’re constantly in touch, but out of place. I simply can’t go on living like this. I’m feeling increasingly apocalyptic."
"A Thin Silence" is a body of work that comes out of my experience living at the L’Abri communities in England and Sweden. L’Abri is French for “the shelter” and is a spiritual place where people of all ages and nationalities come for rest and study in a shared community life with others. Pilgrims come here to rest, to wrestle with a higher power, and to ask the tough questions that many are otherwise afraid to ask.
There is a story in the Hebrew Scriptures about expecting God to be revealed in a dramatic gesture like an earthquake or a fire, but instead finding that God reveals himself in “a low whisper, a thin silence.” This is the lesson of L’Abri. Those of us who come here might be hoping for a grand revelation about modern life or redemption from personal demons, but instead we find God in the beauty of the little things like chores, shared meals, and even the movement of light across a table.
In a world of individualism and isolationism, immersing oneself in the rhythm of a shared life together provides healing and belonging. Those of us who make the pilgrimage to a place like this discover a new sense of home, a place where we can slow down, stop doing, and start being.