Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?
Don't talk of stars Burning above; If you're in love,
Filled with desire. If you're on fire,
Don't talk of spring! Just hold me tight!
Anyone who's ever been in love'll tell you that
Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme!
Pop out all over my brow,
These words are from the musical My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle is singing to Freddy. Having spent hours and weeks and months being schooled in 'proper' English, she is understandably frustrated when Freddy continues to protest his love verbally, without any action.
Nouwen makes a similar observation about our world. “Words…form the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of our existence…Recently I was driving through Los Angeles, and suddenly I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary.” Words can inform, but they can also separate us because we start to tune out the noise around us, even if it is someone we care about who is talking.
I wonder what the Desert Fathers, who Nouwen suggests we look at in The Way of the Heart, would have thought of Twitter and texting and all the other ways we report on our minute by minute thoughts and events. The Desert Fathers went away into the desert to be quiet and be with God. Why is silence important to us 1500 years later? Nouwen offers a three-fold answer. Silence makes us pilgrims. Silence guards the fire within. Silence teaches us to speak.
Paradoxically, by learning to be silent and to guard the inner fire of the Spirit, we can learn to speak Truth, healing, restoration, and communion. Nouwen reminds us, “Out of his eternal silence God spoke the Word, and through this Word created and recreated the world.” Learning to abide in God’s silence teaches us, however imperfectly, to speak and participate “in the creative and re-creative power of God’s own Word.” Perhaps, like Eliza Doolittle God wishes we would use less words and more responsive action...??
This week try to use some of your time with God to be simply silent. If you, like me, are walking, don’t take along an i-pod, just walk and enjoy the sounds of nature and offer thanksgiving to the Creator of all. If you are just taking time out during the day to spend time with God, you might sit outside or in a quiet room where there are no distractions.
Sometimes it helps to find a verse or short prayer to repeat as an aid in shutting out the outer noises (and inner ones). I often use the Jesus Prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Another sentence I use is from psalms; “Be still and know that I Am God.” Breathe in on part of the sentence and out on the second half until you are less and less aware of the things around you.
Next week we will explore more of Silence, esp. the Joy of the Lord that can be found in being still in God’s presence.