Wednesday, December 06, 2017

But I Don't Want to Be Still

"Why is it that when we speak to God, we are called pray-ers but when He speaks to us, we are called schizophrenic?" ~Lily Tomlin
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and with fear and trembling stand
Ponder nothing worldly minded
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descended
our full homage to demand.
My life is noisy. Rarely in any given day do I keep silence. Even now, as I sit in the early morning, with the waning "super moon" still high, the ambient noise invades. As the rotating earth allows the sun to speak light into the morning, the house breathes and creaks. Furnace hums. Grandfather clock ticktocks. My body speaks: tinnitus in my ears, an allergic sneeze. Creation groans: the Northern Flicker comes in search of suet, non-migrating geese fly their arrow overhead, rush hour traffic builds a wall of red taillights likely related to the sirens that woke me. An impatient driver squeals out a u-turn toward a self-devised detour.
It’s a shushing we resist. Reach for the radio. Pick up the iPhone. Plug in the earbuds. Turn on the TV. Whistle a happy tune. Check social media. Talk to oneself. Even the ever-so-brief prayer time at the Tuesday Bible study ramps up with chatter instead of reverence and supplication. Our brief foray into listening prayer had to be guided, met with strong resistance, was forgotten soon after.
“Be still and know I am God.”
Even in intentional silence, when I “still” my body, my mind is still noisy. Searching, thinking, Googling. In the writing of these few words, I have searched out the answers to at least two questions, learned a new musical phrase, and the origins of the hymn first quoted. This is part of the drawback of using a laptop for word processing: the internet is a click away. Thus I am not mentally silent. Not listening, but asking, talking, questioning, resisting. I have a curious mind. Love learning. Want to know. This is a compulsion paired with Attention Deficit Disorder. Silence seems a horrific distraction. An impossible quest. Even now, the dog barks two doors down. I wonder if he’s neglected.

Pink and blue watercolor stretch the sky. The earth exhales.

Humans abhor silence like nature abhors a vacuum. Or is it just me? I want to speak into the silence, make sense of the noise of the day. Even meditation begs an object. Ignatius Loyola was on to something with the Examen but even after professing and attempting to "follow God" most of my life, I have not yet disciplined myself to regularly (habitually, daily) invite God into my busy mind.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
Silence pairs well with love. With all my heart. soul. mind. body. If I love something, I give it my time and attention. If I love someone, I listen. When my spouse and I need meaningful conversation, we turn off the TV and look at each other. I don’t seek out conversation in the theatre or at a concert. The person talking incessantly at the Diana Krall concert last night disrespected everyone with her lack of silence.
And with fear and trembling stand
Am I afraid of what I may hear? Noise helps drown out pain, the memory of failure. But is it also, perhaps, a barrier to grace? Perhaps loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and body means I embark on the quest to learn how to be fully silent before God: quiet my heart, still my soul, rest my mind, relax my flesh, so that I can hear Love.
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descended
The blessing is God's presence. Emmanuel, "God with us."
Our full homage to demand
I shall begin today.

If you wish to embark on your own quest, consider clicking the links in this blog, practice a bit of silence today, and join me tomorrow to share what you learn?


  1. finally was silent enough to read this today, Saturday the 9th. a friend of mine is on a December long, self imposed silence. My husband asking me recently if I did in fact talk all the time and her blogging about this experience has got me wondering about if I could be silent. for a month. for a day. an hour. an anam cara friend arranged to meet me this morning and I proposed we go for a slient walk and watch the sun rise. it was powerful. and painful. one of the reasons was curiosity about the silence but another was I simply wanted to be with her without the massive outpouring that we always enjoyed together. I was surprised at my impatience. the sun takes a long time to fully rise on our little valley. I will invite others to join me to experience this. and I will take my own longing self, just the two of us. silence. terrific, in all of its original meanings.

    1. It is a great challenge! I’m grateful for your response, it is a good start. These things take time and practice. I pray you will hear God’s voice in the silence. Two mornings now I have stilled to listen to his voice in scripture, aided by the beautiful guide: “Seeking God’s Face: Praying With the Bible Through the Year”—it’s like the cane that helps me walk, the aid that helps me still. Perhaps as I wait upon the Lord my strength will be renewed till I am strong enough to listen with out an aid for a few moments each day.