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The Joy and Pain of Silence


As you read this I will be in New York at a Cistercian Monastery.  It will be my first time in silence for more than 6 hours in a stretch. There will be sounds, so it won’t be complete silence, but the sounds won’t come from me.   It will be 3 1/2 days of no dialogue by the time I head back to my family and the demands of running a household/being a pastor/juggling all of the day to day tasks of ordinary life.  So what?  So you get to be away for a few days, good for you, you might be saying to me as you stare at these words on your computer screen.

Well, to be perfectly honest, there’s a bit of fear and trepidation for me about entering into the monastic community, even if it is just as a guest.  For one, I am an extrovert.  I draw energy from interaction with people- to me that usually means talking.  There will be people there for sure, but any communication that occurs will be non-verbal.  But they say, 98% of communication is non-verbal, so who knows?

A second fear of mine is that in those times when I devote more than an hour to silence, reflection and intentionally being present with Christ. . . I tend to end up in a puddle of tears.  There’s something so intimate about being with Christ in silence, basking in his presence, that brings me to a place that is so raw, so sensitive, so fragile, that I find myself weeping and wondering why. There is great joy. . . and there is great pain.  How can this be?

It’s hard to put into words and even trying to diminishes it in many ways but I’ll try. . . it’s like being with the One who loves me completely and unconditionally, who knows everything about me and still accepts me, who knows exactly what I need even before I do, who allows me (encourages me even) to let my unrealistic expectations about life, relationships, ministry, success etc. die.  I mean it:  DIE.  It’s those deaths that happen in the silence that send me to the edge.  Death is painful, to say the least.  But there he is with me, holding on to me so I won’t drown or fall or expire.  And Jesus fills up those places in me that I have wanted others to fill.  Problem is, they can’t.  Not that they might not want to, just that they simply cannot.  So that has to die, but what lives is Christ filling those places because he can and does.

And this is what I am reminded of when I go silent. But sometimes it hurts like hell!  Sometimes it seems like hell.  But it is Christ journeying with me through the valley of the shadow of death. . . he’s been there too so he knows.  Better than anyone,  he knows.  And he cares.  And eventually the tears stop, the stinging in the eyes that feels like ground glass on my corneas because I’ve cried so hard stops.  And then there is relief- catharsis- divine love and mercy.

So you see, silence is not necessarily peaceful for me.  It is, however, a place of growth and eventual strength.  Plus, Jesus did say, “Fear not.”  So, that’s my intention, to move into these days without fear.  I’ll be back next Tuesday, and we will see what happens in the meantime.

God’s peace!


One Comment leave one →
  1. 1November2011 10:07

    Precious thoughts…….

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