“How do you break silence?”
I suppose the words would flow more freely now if I had planned this silence. “Four Months of Silence” has a bit of intrigue to it. But when I last posted here, I did not imagine going 120+ days without posting. In fact, I had planned to write several posts while on vacation in August, reflecting on the missional church through the lens of travelling, being away from home, and experiences of hospitality. I even thought there would be a reflection or two spurred on by extended time in the car, at museums and parks, while playing with our kids. Silence was not in my plans.
This post would have come much quicker, too, if I had been completely silent during these four months. I could have reflected on what words I spoke first and to whom. And when. Or even why. The temptation to speak and the mystery of watching God work in the absence of my words – which for a preacher is often a necessary reminder – could have been powerful. But this has not been that kind of silence. I have spoken plenty of words with my wife and our children. I’ve led worship, preached weekly, and participated in a variety of meetings several nights a week. And for everyone of those – words have been necessary, despite St. Francis’ oft-(mis)quoted admonition. No, this silence has not been about an absence of spoken words.
Rather, this silence has been an interior silence. A silence that very few have noticed – or, at least would have been able to name. I have gone through a season of silence initiated by the approaching one year anniversary of my Dad’s death in August and by several sudden, unexpected deaths in our church community. The only appropriate response and, on some days, the only possible response was to be silent. It was different than contemplative. There was no topic or theme I was mulling over. It was a silence of waiting.
I’ve started writing this post close to a dozen times now. Scribbled phrases have been scratched onto scrap paper and have occupied the margins of meeting agendas. I’d open this page intending to write, only to discover I wasn’t ready yet. The pattern has been rather repetitive: Type a paragraph, delete, restart, stop; pick up a pen, stare out the window, watch my kids drinking their afternoon tea; put on shoes, walk to the field out back, stand in silence, noticing summer slipping into fall; go back inside, sit on the couch, open this page, and start again.
The desire to write has been here all along. But the stirrings that churn out meditations and the wonderings that lead to streams of consciousness have been strangely silent. And so It is that more four months have gone by since I’ve written here.
It’s rather odd: though my days have been full of words – conversations, administrative details, encouraging our children, retelling snippets of my day with my wife, research for academic work – the colored markers, pens, and keyboards that normally participate in making sense of the world as I experience it have been suddenly and severely under utilized.
But tonight, I found myself writing this post, not because I had something profound to offer, or some provocative thought to share, but because I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed the rhythm of wrestling with my reflections. I’ve felt the absence of playing with words and crafting phrases. But most of all I am writing today because that inner silence has loosened. I can hear my imagination crackling like a freshly lit fire on a snowy night. It’s the kind of life that can only be heard when everything else is silent.