Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Between Silence and the Word

In a week's time, I will begin a training program in spiritual direction at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation. I am both excited and apprehensive about this opportunity. I know it will be unlike any other schooling I've done. It's been a kind of un-learning process for me.

Spiritual direction requires less of my head and more of my heart.

I've always done well at school, because I've met it head-on, in every sense of the term. No, I've not been the most studious. Yes, I procrastinated on papers. But, for the most part, I fared very well using my intellect and brain power to get through, get by, and get around most everything.

Now, as I am reading, reflecting, and preparing for the beginning of my upcoming program, I admit to feeling out of my element.

Heart, not head.

"Silence is God's first language," wrote St. John of the Cross some five hundred years ago.

Silence, not sound.

Said another way:  the Word of God is, first, silent.

It's hard to wrap my mind around, admittedly.
I deal endlessly in words--written and read and spoken.

I've intentionally set aside time for silence these past few months.
It's not something I am used to or comfortable with just yet.
And, I've been challenged to notice, that even in my quiet, still moments of prayer, I am awaiting a word.

I keep an ear open, an eye out to receive something in return for my being silent.
Maybe for an insight I could work into a sermon or a blog post.

Can I be silent for the sake of being silent? 
Or must I receive something for my stillness?
Have I truly made space for silence or left open the possibility for mystery if I am, all the while, anticipating a break? 

And yet, there is a time for everything:
A time for silence and a time to speak.
A time for stillness and a time for action.
A time to give and a time to receive.
A time for solitude and a time being in community.

Jesus started many of his days in the same way. While it was still dark, he would go out (on several occasions, at least, up to a mountaintop) to pray. He would begin his morning in silence, stillness, and solitude.

When he came down, he would join his friends. He would preach and proclaim. He would heal and serve. Only after spending time in silence, in prayer and communion with God, did Jesus go out and speak and enflesh the Word of God.

Jesus struck the balance between silence and the spoken Word.

While I have challenged myself to daily writing, I am also aware that my words can quickly become empty. If I am writing only to post, my mind begins grasping for any insight, any illustration it can find.  I have found, as Jesus may have, that my words come up lacking if they are not, first, born from silence.

And this is a challenge for me. To re-imagine the Word as, first, silent.

Some days, this has meant that I do not write.
Some days, the Word does not come.
Some days, I do not look for the Word to come, although this is still a struggle.
I am so geared to expect a word, to form and create an understanding, a revelation out of my silence.

Some days, I am finding that I am to receive nothing, except the presence of God.
Glimpses of the Divine.
At work and at peace.
God speaking and God silent.
God present and God hidden.

The mystery ought not to be covered up with noise and sound and words and my struggling to make sense of it all.

Can I situate myself firmly, as Jesus did, both in silence and in the Word?

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