What’s the Point of Silence?

silence post

 

For years, I would never have even considered sitting alone in silence.

I saw no point to it.  For an extrovert who measures her self-worth in doing rather than just being, sitting in silence seemed like a waste of precious resources. Nothing useful could be accomplished. There was no time for it.

I defined my days by how productive I was: what I got accomplished, what I crossed off my to-do list. If I could multi-task- call a friend while checking my email and paying bills- all the better.

Sometimes unexplained feelings would appear, tears would well up uncontrollably, anger would boil into rage within seconds. I didn’t know where these emotions came from and I was too busy to figure it out. Too busy or too afraid.

I didn’t want to know what was going on inside of me. It was easier to live on the surface. And less painful.

But at a friend’s urging, I went away on a silent retreat, mostly to get away from the stress of everyday life. I wasn’t sure what I would do or discover, but I knew too much of my life was unexamined. Too many emotions pushed down. Too many events unprocessed.

Though extraordinarily painful, those few days changed me. I rediscovered myself. And God.

Since then I have actively sought silence as passionately as I used to seek busyness.

In the silence, I encounter the living God. In the silence, I am free to face the ugliness of my soul and the beauty of God’s work in me. The “me” that I have been ignoring in my desire to get more accomplished.

There are no externals to distract me and I bring nothing of my own to God. Nothing but the insecure, sinful, broken me.

In the silence, I am not producing, performing or achieving. This is challenging since “doing” has always been my preferred mode of operation. It’s easier to do things for God. They are measurable and predictable. Volunteer to serve. Do my Bible study. Listen to a troubled friend.

While these are important, God wants so much more than my “doing.”    He wants me to know Him, the infinite, unpredictable, and dangerous God, who asks more from me than I want to give.  He wants everything. All of me. Not just my Bible study time in the morning and my prayers at night and my doing the right thing during the day. In the silence, everything is laid bare. I can’t hide behind my doing; I must wrestle with who I am and what is really inside of me.

In silence I can hear what’s stirring inside me. The emotions I push aside because they make me cringe as they flash through my mind. The fears that I suppress because I’d rather not face them. The sins that I don’t want to admit to anyone, including myself. The longings that I can’t verbalize and dismiss instead as crazy dreams.

Everything that’s buried deep inside of me comes out in silence.Continue Reading

Easter is Coming

easter 2015

 

At church on Palm Sunday, I suddenly realized that Easter was only one week away.

I felt unprepared.

Not that I didn’t know it was Easter. I had made plans to visit family for that weekend. Flight reservations, hotels, rental cars. I had booked an early morning flight to be back for church. I had even made reservations for Easter brunch.

But in all of my planning I didn’t even think about Jesus.

Easter was about vacation, and family, and food. Just like other holidays.

But Easter isn’t like other holidays. Everything I believe rests on the existence of Easter. Within Easter lies the crux of the Christian faith.

Often I start meditating on Easter long before it arrives. I reflect on my failings and my weaknesses. I give them to God and ask Him what He wants me to do.

Not this year. So as I tried to to listen to the sermon about Palm Sunday, all I could think about was what I hadn’t done. I hadn’t fasted on Ash Wednesday. I hadn’t done the 40 day devotional for Lent. I hadn’t even thought about the resurrection.

I had been so busy with our wedding, my new life, adjusting to it all, that I had focused on little else.

I vowed to do better next year.

I’d star the calendar a week before Ash Wednesday so I could start planning early. That way I could do something really meaningful next season. Maybe our whole family could volunteer somewhere. And I could take more time for prayer and fasting. And we would have deep intentional discussions about serving God and dying to self.

There was no way to salvage this year now. This Lenten season was almost over. There was no point in worrying about it.

I sat in the pew, mentally berating myself for what I hadn’t done, barely listening to the sermon. I felt defeated.

But as the sermon washed over me, I realized I was believing a lie.

Of course, it’s not too late.

Jesus is issuing me an invitation right now. Today I can spend time with Him. Today I can reflect on the cross. Today I can draw near to Him.

Satan tells me that if I don’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t bother at all. Satan tells me that God is only pleased with me when I do the right thing. Satan tells me I’ve missed my only opportunity.

Too many times I believe those lies, and I give up. I condemn myself for my failings, feel guilty for missed opportunities, and commit to do better the next time.

All too often, my Christian walk is based on doing things for God in my own strength.Continue Reading

Sunshine after the Rain

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I married an incredible man two weeks ago. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

In a letter to him on our wedding day, I told him that he was the answer to my deepest prayers and better than my wildest dreams.

I’m still feeling euphoric. I can’t believe that this is my life. I keep thinking I’ll wake up to find it’s all been a dream.

This sense of bliss is unfamiliar to me. For many years, my reality felt more like a nightmare than a dream. I had resigned myself to thinking that life would always be hard, crying myself to sleep was normal, and happiness was for “other people.”

I memorized Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” though I doubted its application to me. When my morning was coming? Was it coming at all? The night seemed endlessly long and my weary tear-filled eyes could not see even a glimmer of light. For some, their weeping period was brief and contained, yet for others, the night stretched into years. And when the night is measured by decades, it’s hard to believe that morning will ever dawn.

When I found myself in a night that seemed to go on forever, I vacillated between faith & hopelessness, between peace & terror, between light & darkness. The blackness would often envelop me till I could scarcely breathe. Those days were filled with tears and my only release came with intermittent sleep. I would give into self-pity and wish that I had never been born. Job did that – I reasoned that I could too.

Other times I would try to ignore the pain, stuffing my feelings as deep as I could manage, stoically going on with my life. I squelched expectations of anything good happening – that way I couldn’t be disappointed. Those days were fueled only by duty. It was basically resignation, though it vaguely resembled contentment.

Some mornings I would grab my Bible and sit with God as long as I could. I would try to grab hold of Him and cry out, as Jacob did, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” I would journal about my pain, read the Bible, and sit in God’s presence. I would wait until I sensed a word from Him – usually spoken from the Scripture – and that word would carry me through the day.

And lastly, some days I was able to intentionally and deliberately choose to be joyful even when my heart was breaking. Even when life felt empty and hopeless. Even when my time with the Lord left me feeling alone and unchanged. On those days in particular, I forced myself to be thankful even for small things and to set my mind on the truth of what I knew about God rather than my feelings.

It was a constant battle, a continual fight for joy. A battle that I lost as often as I won. But what changed me wasn’t in losing or winning the battle, but rather in simply engaging the fight.

At the time, I didn’t see any of this. At the time all I could see was life disintegrating. At the time, I just wanted the pain to stop. It didn’t occur to me that anything good or noble or worthwhile was happening. But this learning to depend on God, to cry out to him, to find beauty in the everyday, was training my heart to see beyond my circumstances. And that sight continued long after the storm had passed.

Learning to dance in the rain did more for my soul than dancing in the sunshine ever could.Continue Reading

How Can Unfulfilled Longings Be a Blessing?

airplane wing

 

I was lonely for years.

I longed to remarry, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone. Not even to myself.

I didn’t want to pin my hopes on something that might never happen. And if I never remarried, I didn’t want to look like I had wasted my life, hadn’t trusted God, and couldn’t be content. I’d be pitied. And embarrassed. I didn’t want that.

So I buried my feelings.

At times those stuffed feelings would resurface and I would ask God for a husband, journal about it, and pray fervently. Then I would try to forget about my longings, surrender them to God, and convince myself I didn’t want to be married anyway. I told myself, and other people, that it wasn’t important, that I was completely content, that I had come to terms with where I was.

That was a lie.

A lie I wanted to believe because it seemed that everyone who loved God was satisfied with their circumstances. Besides, it seemed better to deny a longing that might never be fulfilled than it was to keep longing. It certainly was less painful.

Others had accepted their unfulfilled longings. Regarding singleness. Or infertility. Or discouraging careers. They said that when they finally gave up on their desires, they gained a sense of stability.

Yet God knew my heart. He knew this longing was not going away. It was pointless for me to deny it.

And then God miraculously, wonderfully, unexpectedly fulfilled my dream. Beyond my wildest imaginings.

In two weeks I will wed a man I love deeply.

God gave me the desire of my heart. It has been amazing. And I will be forever grateful.

And yet in other things – with longings just as real and intense – God has not given me what I was yearning for. He has left me with unmet desires. Desires that may not be fulfilled this side of heaven. Desires that I may live with forever.

Right now I want a body that isn’t severely limited. With post-polio syndrome, I am deteriorating daily, much more rapidly than I am prepared for. Some days I wake up with intense pain, which gives way to a dull ache that drags throughout the day. On those days, my arms are limited to basic tasks like eating and dressing. If I can do them at all.

It’s been excruciating.Continue Reading