So much to ponder from one chapter it took two posts 🙂
“Silence is not simply the absence of noise or the shutdown of communication with the outside world, but rather a process of coming to stillness. Silent solitude forges true speech. I’m not speaking of physical isolation; solitude here means being alone with the Alone, experiencing the transcendent Other and growing in awareness of one’s identity as the beloved. It is impossible to know another person intimately without spending time together. Silence makes this solitude a reality. It has been said, ‘Silence is solitude practiced in action.’
It is much like the story of the harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor’s rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Christian life. He then went into the dark recesses of the cave and came out with a basin and a pitcher of water.
‘Now watch the water as I pour it into this basin, ” he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled around the inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placid water. ‘That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others,’ said the hermit. ‘You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades.’
It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew.
Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx responded:
‘In a revealed religion, silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.’
Silent solitude makes true speech possible and personal. If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I cannot touch the sacredness of others. If I am estranged from myself, I am likewise a stranger to others. Experience has taught me that I connect best with others when I connect with the core of myself. When I allow God to liberate me from unhealthy dependence on people, I listen more attentively, love more unselfishly, and am more compassionate and playful. I take myself less seriously, become more aware that the breath of the Father is on my face and that my countenance is bright with laughter in the midst of an adventure I thoroughly enjoy.
… In solitary silence we listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls us the beloved. God speaks to the deepest strata of our souls, into our self-hatred and shame, our narcissism, and takes us through the night into the daylight of His truth:
‘Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine. You are precious in my eyes, because you are honored and I love you . . . the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken’ (Isaiah 43:1,4; 54:10)
Let us pause here. It is God who has called us by name. The God beside whose beauty the Grand Canyon is only a shadow has called us beloved. The God beside whose power the nuclear bomb is nothing has tender feelings for us.
… The revelation of God’s tender feelings for us is not mere dry knowledge. For too long and too often along my journey, I have sought shelter in hand-clapping liturgies and cerebral Scripture studies. I have received knowledge without appreciation, facts without enthusiasm. Yet, when the scholarly investigations were over, I was struck by the insignificance of it all. It just didn’t seem to matter.
But when the night is bad and my nerves are shattered and Infinity speaks, when God Almighty shares through His Son the depth of His feelings for me, when His love flashes into my soul and when I am overtaken by Mystery, it is kairos – the decisive inbreak of God in this saving moment of my personal history. No one can speak for me. Alone, I face a momentous decision. Shivering in the rags of my sixty-plus years, either I escape into skepticism and intellectualism or with radical amazement I surrender in faith to the truth of my belovedness.
At every moment of our existence God offers us this good news. Sadly, many of us continue to cultivate such an artificial identity that the liberating truth of our belovedness fails to break through. So we become grim, fearful, and legalistic. We hid our pettiness and wallow in guilt. We huff and puff to impress God, scramble for brownie points, thrash about trying to fix ourselves, and live the gospel in such a joyless fashion that it has little appeal to nominal Christians and unbelievers searching for truth.
Frederick Buechner wrote,
‘Repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus says. Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better that we ever dared hope, and that to believe in good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come, Lord Jesus.