Monday, December 26, 2016

Silence

        It is the day after Christmas.  For many, I'm sure, it is a day of rest, of relaxing.  Not for me.  We had half the family over for Christmas yesterday and the other half is coming today.  I also have a memorial service in the early afternoon.  And since the house was full of folk yesterday, it requires cleaning again today, as well as cooking, before our guests arrive.  Another very full day, after an incredibly full week (a total of 6 worship services in the span of a week plus the preschool program, and regular scheduled activities.  I know other large churches may have this many services on a regular basis, but then they also have multiple pastors on staff...) which was just the last in an incredibly busy month.  And at the end of it all, I'll admit I'm tired.
       But right now, in this moment, before the kids are awake and before David comes over to help me with all that needs to be done; right now it is quiet.  I sit in my house, looking out my back window on a gorgeous sunny winter's morning.  And it is silent.  The beauty of the morning calls me to be outside, walking, and when I am done writing this I will probably accept that invitation.
        But as I sit in the quiet, I am aware of how many times and ways we are pulled out of the quiet. I'm aware that even my writing and even my desire to be out walking are ways to avoid being in the stillness by myself.  We flood ourselves and our lives with noise, with disturbances, with distractions on so many different levels.  There are those we are willing to name as a culture: TV, radio, videos, time with people, busyness.  But there are the ones we are less willing to own that are also distractions and ways to avoid the quiet: social media is a big one, but I would also add books, activity of any kind (including writing), music in any form, and yes, even walking, exercising, and being with our most intimate companions.  I heard a story this last week about a man who was struggling and told by his therapist that for a week he needed to go home after work each day and be just with himself.  At the end of the week he returned to his therapist and informed her that it had done no good.  She asked what it looked like for him to be with himself at the end of each day.  He said he went home and read and listened to music.  The therapist told him, "I told you to go home and be with yourself each day, not with the authors and composers of the books and music that filled your time."  I think there is so much wisdom in that story.  It reminds me frankly of something Martin Luther supposedly said, "I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours praying." I don't know what he meant by praying, but for me, the listening, the silence, the being is the most important part of praying.
            It is so hard to be with ourselves.  We escape constantly.  Even as I write this my mind is going a hundred different places into what I need to do today, what must be accomplished.  It escapes into thinking about relationships and situations and things needing to be done or fixed or righted or tried.  My mind goes to encounters I've had and analyzes them, picks them apart.  It is hard to just BE.  But I believe the more that we practice BEing, the more we find there is nothing to fear, there is nothing to escape, and that some of the moments that are most truly lived and experienced are those we find in solitude and in silence.  If nothing else, these moments of silence can ground us and help us remember that at the end of the day, little that we focus on in our constant busyness really matters. We are given the gift of living, of life, of being.  And in the end accepting the invitation into life is what it is all about.  I'm going to stop writing now and try to do what I'm urging the rest of you to do. Have a blessed day, whatever your faith tradition.  Take time to BE.  Peace to you all.