Have you ever noticed how many kinds of silence there are?
There is the quiet silence of joy.
There is the silence of anger, of fuming in a stroke-like gaping horror.
When my daughter gets hurt, and it’s actually more than a little bump, you can gauge the severity of the injury by how long it is before the sound of the cry begins: the longer the silence, the worse it turns out to be.
In worship there can be intentional holy silence and awkward waiting transitional silence and a silence that sits in the middle somewhere between the two.
Silence happens in the morning or night time between the quieting of the night noises and the beginning of the morning activity.
Silence comes in all times and places…
Silence at the right moment is appropriate and called for and necessary. Sometimes I wish there was more of it.
Sometimes there is too much of it. Sometimes there is the wrong kind of silence.
Silence in the midst of injustice, of someone being hurt, is dangerous. Silence can be forced.
Silence is inflicted.
When necessary voices are ignored and harm continues, it is as if there might as well be silence. And then there is too much of the news, the bad piles on top of what is worse and the horrible keeps getting multiplied by the horrifying.
We go deaf in the screaming and are engulfed in the silence that comes from being numbed to the pain around us.
Our ears ring with the echoes of all the shouts around us.
There is no peaceful silence, merely the hush in the eye of the hurricane.
I can’t turn my ears from the cries around me. I can’t turn my eyes from the news of another attack. I can’t turn my heart from the call of the broken.
I choose to look and listen and feel.
I add my voice when I can, speaking a language of confession and kindness. My words may be little better than silence. I doubt my own effort and effect on the noisome roll of news and heartache.
I take moments to attempt entering holy silence. It is one of the few things that is keeping me in strength, patience, and compassion. Holy silence grants me hope.
My hope waits expectantly for joy.
I recently had a major life change, and in the past four months, I’ve gotten affirmation that what I am doing right now is healthy for me, my faith, my family, and my wellbeing. There are a few things that need a bit of work, but for now, at home at least, I am deeply affirmed in my choices.
Which is good, because the rest of the world has gone crazy.
Our country is divided, our state is burning, our church is on rocky ground, the globe is the hottest it has been in recorded history, and there does not seem to be any reprieve coming from anywhere anytime soon. We need some affirmation in our being, but our being can’t even agree on from whence we should seek our affirmation.
The part that hurts the most is when people say there is no reason to be hurting. They say that it doesn’t really matter. They make folly of the collective fears and say that there is nothing to worry about. This glib reassurance concerns me the most, and I hold a considerable amount more of privilege than most of the groups that are concerned.
I am not in fear of being deported. I am not in fear of losing the legitimacy of my marriage. I am not in fear of being pulled over while driving and then pulled out of my car to be shot. I am not in fear of having my place of business burned because I look different than the assumed normal. I am not in fear of having my place of worship spray-painted with hate signs and symbols.
I am in fear of losing agency over my own body, of being legislated out of healthy decisions by people who know nothing of medicine or science. I am in fear of my daughter growing up in a community where she has to defend herself as equal to those around her. I am in fear of a culture that does not understand consent.
And yes, you might say, “But: perfect love casts out all fear.” And yes. That is a final truth. But perfect love seems to be ages away.
There is no affirmation that the world will be better in a year or in a decade. I don’t know what we need to do in order to heal. I think a good step would be to realize that we are in need of healing.
If we were able to say that we needed healing, then that would affirm that we would be able to move toward being whole. But I don’t think we are there yet. God save us as we figure it out.
I wrote this on October 26, 2016, and while I intended to post it earlier, life happened: my daughter woke up and I never got back to it. What I say remains the same.
… … …
I’m kinda ready for it to be advent now. I feel I need something to prepare for. A season to enter. Fall has been a good change of pace, a season to decorate for, a holiday to celebrate as I piece together my family’s halloween costumes and prepare to be generous with our neighbors.
I’m also preparing to purchase a car… as soon as the class action gets finalized, and so I’m having to make decisions about make and model and trim lines and years and what we choose to spend. And though those decisions will have an impact for years, I still feel I am missing something.
I am liturgically unmoored. Drifting, even. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been in a place where the liturgy and the liturgical year was deeply part of the rhythm of worship. And maybe it was not as deep a part of the life of the churches I was serving as it was important to me as I planned and led worship, but as the primary worship planer and leader, the liturgical year was the touchstone and guide that led all other decisions. The liturgical year set the tone and the theme of my weeks and days. It was the baseline of my values.
I have a new baseline now. basically, am I doing what I need to do for my daughter. Perhaps I am yearning for something that is set a little more holy. Not that caring for my daughter and family is not work to which I am called, rather, that I feel that I could be doing something additional to see my work through an intentional lens, to a more whole and holy work.
And so I want Advent to be here. In part because it is a season that I observe no matter what. I always celebrate it. Even in years where I don’t really attend to Lent, I celebrate Advent. In part because it leads up to my favorite day of the year, Christmas Eve. And then in part because Advent stands as a light in the midst of the gathering darkness. Celebrating Advent tells the darkness that there is light that is going to shine anyway. It’s a time when we prepare to welcome the light of the world into our homes. So I may be starting advent a month early. We all need some extra light.
I think I’m missing something. I know there must be a hole or a gap or a vacant spot or a lacunae somewhere, but I don’t know where it is and so I don’t know how to begin looking for it and so I don’t know how to remedy the situation.
I’m pretty sure I’m biased.
I am deeply concerned about this. I’m concerned about my own bias because I am sure that it has been affecting how I think about those who disagree with me. It’s become more than merely thinking that those who think differently than me are wrong. I have gone so far into this thinking that I believe that they are misguided, blinded, ill-informed, dupes in a cosmic parody.
It’s not healthy.
My thinking is not healthy not only because I think I’m right, I have gone so far as to refuse to be in conversation with those who think differently with me. I am creating my own echo-chamber. I am creating a prison for my mind.
And I am missing out on seeing the image of God in others. I am missing out on the full representation of the body of Christ.
I am sinning. My bias is leading me to sin more.
I don’t want to be this way.
Changing my heart will not be easy. I cannot do it on my own. Like I said, there is a gaping hole somewhere and I have yet to identify the location.
I was offended recently by someone and it disturbed me so much that I wept deep into the night. I grieved that I was not able to speak to the offense. But even more deeply, I grieved that I struggle with seeing the offender as created in the image of God.
I lost compassion for them. It scared me. Their actions concerned me, but my reaction to them concerned me even more. If I can be affected like this and think like this, then what hope do I have to learn to be better?
It would be much more easy to return to my blissful ignorance than to work hard to move past my own biases to see the full image of the person in front of me. My love isn’t big enough. My heart isn’t open enough. I need to look through the eyes of Christ in order to love and see deeply enough.
The nation votes soon. I hope to vote very soon. Possibly tomorrow. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know what will happen in North Carolina or the nation at large. I also don’t know why anyone would consider voting for the person running against the person I’m voting for. I mean, I know a couple of things, but I truly do not understand why anyone in their right mind would consider voting for the opponent.
What scares me, more than anything, is that depending on where you stand, this statement is true for persons from either major party. We each want to say that the other is incredibly unreasonable and that we are right, even though the person we support is flawed, and that their opponent is utterly untrustworthy and cannot be considered fit to lead.
Is this where we have come to? Is this democracy at its finest?
Who do we trust so deeply to believe that our opponent is beyond hope?
But we do it. We shout and cry and plead and applaud our own candidate while defaming and condemning the opponent.
I’ve come to the point where I both believe that this election is vitally important and yet I also believe that my final hope cannot be founded in the government.
The world will stand and continue to turn no matter who is elected.
I will continue to disagree with our president whoever becomes our next president.
My ultimate ruler is not my president, my ultimate ruler is Christ.
I believe that Christ grieves over the hate filled speech that has overrun our democratic dialogue. Not because Christ is a part of a political party, but because Christ grieves with those who grieve, and Christ weeps when we fight against and hate each other.
And I don’t know what is in the hearts of those around me who happen to disagree with me. I don’t know what roads they have travelled to get to where they are. We’ve stopped listening to each other. We’ve begun to assume that if you support the other camp that you have become the very worst that the particular camp represents.
We assume the worst and take credit for the best.
No wonder we disagree.
Now, yes, I support one particular person who is running for president. I voted for them in the primary and I will vote for them again. But I don’t believe they are the solution to every problem that plagues our country. They won’t be able to do it if they remain in office for eight years! And it is not that the congress is divided or that red tape gets in the way. It’s because much of what is broken with our system needs attention from those of us nearest to the issues. we are on the ground, and we have the responsibility to respond to the needs of the community around us, not wait for DC to get it’s act together.
I think the church has some stepping up to do. We need to begin with conversation, especially with those who think differently than we do. And the listening is vital.