Quiet comes to rest beside me

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!!”
Wandering, lost,
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.

Our Father comforts and encourages even during times of deprivation

Merton writes that even though contemplation and sanctity are found through deprivation, most of us so fear fully relying on God that we end up depriving ourselves of the experience.

He says:

The prospect of this wilderness is something that so appalls most men that they refuse to enter upon its burning sands and travel among its rocks. They cannot believe that contemplation and sanctity are to be found in a desolation where there is no food and no shelter and no refreshment for their imagination and intellect and for the desires of their nature.

I fear I don’t yet have strength enough to withstand the kind of deprivation he describes here…certainly not without failure. Yet, Our Father in heaven promises to sustain us.

I believe that. But I don’t come close to acting in ways that really test my faith.

Could I ever let go of the dock — its security, its familiarity and substance and provision — and step wholly into Our Father’s boat? Could I let go and be completely dependent on His provision and substance — secure in His love?

My friend Angie over at Family Answers Fast wrote to say of Lenten sacrifices that

It is your desire to please God that is so pleasing.

And she directed me to her friend, Diane’s comments who added that Lent for her meant finding

little things, little opportunities throughout the day to deny my self in order to love Him better.

I love Thomas Merton and I’m inspired by his call to austerity and trust, but I am blessed and comforted, by loving friends and their encouragement — God’s encouragement, through them — of my search for understanding.

Abbey of Gethsemane

My husband and I are preparing to visit the Abbey of Gethsemane in Trappist, KY.

Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (most famously) and many others have labored here to create a community devoted to God’s glory. In their words  “The Abbey is a monastery in the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO), part of the body of the Roman Catholic Church.”

In the course of my preparatory wanderings I found this beautiful video from Lorraine Lordi who has compiled her photographs from ten years of retreats at the Abbey into 12 minutes of wonder.

Some year I hope to be able to plan a longer retreat there, but for now, I’m looking forward to any thoughts or recommendations you might have for how best to plan the couple of days we’ll have on this trip.

In the meantime, enjoy.