Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Turn off the radio, TV, phone, or computer, and simply work or rest in silence. As you hear the sounds of life around you, allow yourself to be filled with awe and gratitude at the presence of God’s Spirit in diverse ways.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.
“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”
Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of silence written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. May your Good Friday be holy confrontational and blessed!
A Place of Confrontation
by Dustin Davis
In my experience there are two levels of silence. The first level is a more superficial type of silence. It’s characterized by the relief that comes when a loud noise passes. Living in a city as big as Los Angeles I experience noise followed by this type of silence all the time when a circling helicopter finally flies into the distance, when screaming sirens continue down the street out of earshot or when a honking car alarm mercifully halts. Indeed, whenever I travel back to Missouri I’m struck by the silence, particularly at night. It’s restful, and it’s peaceful.
The other, and deeper, level of silence doesn’t happen spontaneously. In fact, I have to be rather intentional about it. I have to purposefully turn off the radio and tv, remove my cell phone to another room and attempt the often impossible task of quieting my own thoughts. I have to make space for this type of silence, and it’s in this place that I do my best to listen to the still small voice that is God. This kind of silence, although it may bring me peace, isn’t peaceful at all. It’s a place of confrontation.
During Lent this year I’ve been reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg. In it he examines each day, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, of Jesus’s life as narrated in the gospel of Mark. It’s been a fascinating journey, and one of the points that Borg makes abundantly clear is that the last week of Jesus’s life, what we experience this week as Holy Week, is a time of extreme confrontation with the unjust systems of the Roman empire and with those who collude and are complicit within those systems. Borg says, “As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as all know, it killed him.”
Silence, real and deep silence, can be a scary thing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so difficult to achieve. We wouldn’t have the countless options for distraction that we do today. It’s only in this place where we can sense God truly calling us that we are confronted with our own unjust actions and complicity in the status quo. When we put away the phones and the music and the other noise that fills our lives, our fears and insecurities and vulnerabilities raise to the top, and we hear God’s loving voice nudging us to reconciliation, to love deeper, risk greater, to seek the kingdom. This requires within us to change and to die, and we don’t often do so willingly. However, as Jesus shows us time and time again, this is the path of the disciple that we must all take.
So often we confuse the peace we seek with the simple absence of unwanted or loud noises. It’s giving up chocolate for Lent and making it to the end without cheating only to binge the next day. It feels good, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. But we have to stop fooling ourselves and recognize that there is so much more.
The good news is that we know death is not the end. Even as Jerusalem was a place of confrontation and death for Jesus, it was also a place of resurrection. We cling to the Easter promise of new life beyond our imaginings, which is good and hopeful, but it’s only once we die and live again that it stops being just a promise or a story. Our suffering is transformed into new life, into the reality we call God’s Kingdom. Only then can we call ourselves an Easter people and say we believe in the resurrection!