Skip to main content

too quiet

Image from ruleoflife.com
My life has been pretty quiet the past few months. Don't get me wrong, it is busy. It has been one of those terms when I am teaching, traveling, going to conferences, trying to move forward on my thesis, grading assignments, and meeting with professors and students and people in my spiritual community. But in the midst of the busyness it has felt pretty quiet. Quiet in my spirit. No fireworks. No great excitement, No awesome revelations. No getting caught up in a whirlwind and taken to heaven. No pillar of fire by night. No guiding cloud by day. No burning bush. Just the humdrum of reading and writing, lecturing, going to the gym, praying, reading the Bible, gathering with followers of Jesus, and doing the dishes. Pretty quiet inside.

At times I ask my spirit - hey, are you alive and well? I hope so, I respond. I wonder to myself - is God with me? I guess so, I say, but I can't always tell. And maybe, on a particularly quiet and busy day, I allow myself to wonder if this whole faith thing is a figment of my imagination because nothing much seems to be happening.

And then, on a quiet Monday night when four of us are sitting around a table, reading a chapter in a rather innocuous book, I feel the tiniest shudder, a movement inside me. And I know it is the Spirit of God breathing on me. I don't remember exactly what we were reading about, maybe something about not complaining, or perhaps something about Pentecost, but I feel my spirit fluttering, a subtle breeze wafting across it. It is so gentle that I almost disregard it, dismiss it as too small a thing, mostly a nothing.

And then we come to a directive in the book: Share a story about a time you experienced the Holy Spirit in a special way. And when everyone sits there mute, I speak up. I confess that my life in the Spirit has been very quiet lately, and that I might even have complained about that a bit, the mediocrity of it, the lack of excitement. But if things had not been so quiet, I never would have felt the subtle movement, the tiny breeze, the breath of the Spirit wafting over me just a moment ago. And I almost tear up at the realization that God is very close to me indeed.

Being in a quiet place allows us to catch the subtle movements of the Spirit. It encourages us to be attentive to the smallest of changes in the spiritual atmosphere. We are, in some ways, more wholly alive than when we are bracing ourselves against a whirlwind or shielding our eyes from a burning bush. In quietness, we can hear the drop of a pin. In the calm, we can feel the slightest change in the wind. In stillness, we notice the smallest movements.

Quietness cultivates attentiveness, awareness, sensitivity, stillness (not prone to agitation), contentment (not needing constant stimulation), and stability (not easily distracted or discouraged). The Spirit of God's presence is all the more lovely and beautiful and breathtaking for its restraint. May I never complain about the quiet because in it I hear and see and feel and taste and smell that God is good in ways which the whirlwind could never teach me.

-----------------------

The Quiet World by Jeffrey McDaniel 1998

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…

vertical theology

Much of the thinking and writing I have been doing for the past year or so, especially in academic settings, has to do with how hierarchy is embedded in our theology and ways of structuring communities. To me, that's not a g