Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

The Value of Silence

I’m finding myself a bit introspective which makes it difficult for me to write posts for the blog as the words seem to dissipate in reflection.  I’m finding less need to say them here, to put words on paper or on a screen in order to be really honest about them.  I suppose too, I’m finding the courage to bring some of them to the light of day in other avenues which seems a bit more authentic.

For awhile now I’ve been a bit more open to allowing more of the world – the voices, clashes, and arguments that seem to so permeate our broader culture – through television, magazines, and the radio than before.  The last few election seasons amplified the noises entering our home bringing with it the attendant frustration and bewilderment.

I didn’t really think much of it, but then at my last yoga class the answer seemed quite clear.  I’m relatively new to yoga.  Several weeks ago, somewhat on a whim I suggested we head to a class – my mom, my youngest sister, and myself – at the local yoga studio.  Those first few classes were tough.  How on earth are you supposed to keep breathing smoothly and evenly while you’re trying not to fall on your rear?  A few more classes have passed since then and I’m finding moments where the physical struggle isn’t screaming at me quite so loudly.  My biggest discovery?  The quiet.  A moment in my week where it’s just me and it’s just quiet.  I’m surrounded by adults without needing to attend to anyone’s needs, but most importantly, I’m surrounded with that comfortable companionship that doesn’t need a single word.  I’ve been missing the quiet.  The constant discussion, argument, and striving to be right whether it be me or the newsy types in the media is exhausting and it crowds everything else out.

I’ve always struggled with that need – to be right.  It alienated me from my classmates when I was in high school, granted me acceptance amongst my peers in college, and ultimately became my undoing as a professional Christian.  And now?  Conversations that start with “the Bible says” leave me mumbling under my breath, “My ass is twitching…you people make my ass twitch” a bit like Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in French Kiss, but without the smoking.  Most often I find that what follows “the Bible says” has a lot less to do with what the Bible (or presumably God) says and a lot more to do with what the person saying it thinks.  It’s a way of hiding our own prejudices, values, and beliefs under a more authoritative veneer.

Before?  I believed that the reason why others disagreed with what “the Bible says” is because they hadn’t heard a compelling enough argument.  After all, it was important to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  In doing so surely they would agree that I was right…and they were wrong.  If they didn’t concede defeat right away?  My argument wasn’t compelling enough and I just needed to try harder.  After all, the arguments I was giving sounded so very clever and convincing to not only me, but also those I surrounded myself with.

Now?  Boy, do those arguments ever sound absurd.  Condescending.  Completely missing the point.  Not even remotely answering the questions others (or myself) are asking.  We always believed that we were “loving the sinner and hating the sin.”  Come to find out our version of love played quite a bit differently than we though.  We believed that we were accepting of others.  Now that I find myself discordant with the vocal subset of my faith tradition I realize that the reality was something altogether different.  There are relationships that ended for reasons I was so very bewildered over then that make so much more sense now.

As for the focus on rational arguments, logic, and passionate debate?  Their siren song is still very strong.  I struggle with the temptation to prove my rightness and another’s wrongness.  My adrenaline rises as my breath catches in my throat and my heart begins to race.  It’s tough at that moment to remember to take a few deep breaths.  Old habits die-hard, but I’m trying to listen more and talk less.  I’m trying to remember that the “peace that passes all understanding” won’t be found by shouting.

I’d like to think that this is a result of some sort of spiritual maturity, but at the very least it’s a sign that I’m more willing to be honest about myself.  I used to take whatever nagging doubts or questions that I had, most often that had answers I could not find, and stuff them as deeply as I could.  I’d ignore those bits of uncertainty and instead pretend that I was as certain as certain could be.  Now?  I find myself willing to admit that not only do I not know the answer to some things, I’m content with not knowing.  Some questions are far more complex than I could ever begin to understand and I won’t pretend differently.  I’ve come to accept that sometimes the best answer to a question is silence.


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