Friday, May 09, 2008

A Sabbath for Silence

The last few weeks have been busier – and noisier – than usual. I’ve been (and will be) out promoting the release of Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment. That’s included leading workshops, doing interviews, recording podcasts, and doing book-signings and readings. Lots of words. All in addition to the “normal” flow of words out of my mouth as a congregational consultant, supervisor of a dozen staff members, attendee and convener of countless meetings, and my natural chatty personality. Way too many words. It’s time for some silence. So that’s what I’m going to do this morning. Take a Sabbath of silence. Shut-up. Turn the word tap off for a while. I need to re-center amid the hectic pace that goes through July. I need to quiet down and hear the voice of God – and maybe even reorient my soul a bit. Check what words I’m really going to need to say – and those which I need to lay aside.

Silence – not words – leads us aright. “I have never repented of silence,” said St. Arsenius. I know I have often mourned words that passed my lips. Often, in silence, I remember words I wish I could take back. I’ve said many things that I know, when I am silent, were not reflections of Jesus, but sprang from my need to best someone verbally or overwhelm them with my intellect. Spiritual silence reminds me that I need to be still and learn from the One who placed ego aside – even though it led to a cross. In the holy silence we come to know the living Word, as the gospel writer of John calls Jesus. This life and light of humankind still shines in the darkness. In the silence we come to the Living Word of God directly – the Word that writer of Hebrews tell us “… is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Silence takes us to a place in our souls where we stand naked in spirit before God – as guilty, then forgiven, and finally blameless. All our secrets are laid bare to God’s eyes and our own. God then gives us the power to see ourselves as we truly are. In the silence I often have to face the fact that I am not nearly so nice a guy as I usually think I am. I see when I’ve been mean spirited or apathetic. I remember the times I shot nasty looks at people who jumped in front of me at the grocery store checkout.

Silence doesn’t leave me there, though. In holy silence God begins giving me the power to live my faith. In silence I see God’s work in me being slowly realized. Any time any of us come into God’s presence we leave ready to live out the gospel with as much light as we have been given. If we take time – and not just a quick hit of silence – to be still.

-- Brent


Robin M. said...

O what a gentle and helpful reminder. A few years ago, I wrote an essay called Silence is like fluoride - we need little daily doses and, less frequently but regularly, longer intensive treatments in order to heal and repair all the little nicks and cracks that start to develop in us. Enjoy.

Brent Bill said...

Hi Robin -- thanks for the comment and the link to your piece. I'd never thought of the flouride metaphor before (perhaps because I grew up in the era when some folks still thought flouride in the water was a communist plot!), but it's a good one.

Happy approaching Mother's Day.