“Entering into God’s silence,” is Merton’s theme for Monday of the first full week of Lent. He says, that in silence we
are formed and prepared so that [we] may speak what [we] have heard.
And doesn’t this resonate with all of us who spend our time here in this virtual space? We share our experience and our reading and our revelations with others, in hopes of offering words, sharing stories, which might help someone else to find their way.
But silence, Merton says, and time apart from others is necessary for all of us.
At church yesterday our priest spoke about a similar theme, discussing Jesus’ time in the desert – in desolation, in silence, tempted and tried. Like Jesus, he said, during these quiet times God teaches us how to distinguish His voice — that voice planted like a seed deep within us at the moment of conception — from all the other voices that might ring in our ears.
I wrote a poem years ago — 40 years ago now — I was so young then and immature. Yet, even then, I knew that while I kind of liked the words…the way they sounded together…the sense that they said something important…I knew, even then, I didn’t really understand them or what they meant, even to me. It went like this:
Night sounds begin and light
becomes a shadow of a shadow
As dark isolation settles with a chill.
Breath won’t come. “Don’t go
…Don’t leave me here alone!!”
Separate from all but One.
Then quiet comes to rest beside me,
And the crowd from the inner room
Pushes to be free.
What does it reveal about that girl nearly a half century ago? Fear of being alone.
I used to hate being alone. The silence when I was alone was never silent. When I was little, being alone scared me in that ghost-and-hobgoblin sort of way. As I got older, I just didn’t know what to do with silence and alone-ness.
By the time I wrote this, I had begun to catch just a faint glimmer. When I wrote that “quiet comes to rest beside me,” I always thought that when I really finally understood whatever this this work is that is mine to do in this life, that the line would read “quiet comes to rest within me.”
Still, now when I am silent and talking with God, I have a strong sense of His coming to rest beside me, His quiet loving presence cleansing me and making me whole again.
And even though there is a peacefulness associated with the experience, there is an incredible excitement. The crowd — all those unformed feelings and partial thoughts and gentle urgings — they rally up within me in a sort of freedom song in which I catch a glimpse of the person He intended me to be. They demand my attention, insist that I free them from my own anxieties and fears and expose them to the Light of His grace.