Unlike normal where I invite you to dip into my blog, perhaps grab your own thought and run with it, I would ask that you try to read this, slightly longer than normal blog, right to the end. Thanks.
Some time ago while on holiday, we as a family visited a Baptist church for their evening service. After the minister welcomed folk, he then went on to explain that the service that evening was going to take a different form to their normal one, whereby he would read some verses of scripture, after which there would be a time of silence for reflection, and into which space we were invited to pray or suggest an appropriate hymn to be sung. This pattern was repeated for the full length of the service. While it was lovely, it was also challenging. It made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, I think basically because I tend to feel safer with set boundaries, including within church settings, with perhaps, and this may well surprise some, though I suspect not all, the preacher not God, directing things. I’m not saying that that’s right or wrong, rather I just think that`s how it often is. Many of us grew up with “ritual” within our church settings as our norm, which we then deep down perceive to be the best, the right way, of doing worship? And while ritual can and does have its rightful place, if it dosen`t also allow for movement of the Holy Spirit to minister outside our “set boundaries box” I wonder then, is it always as “right” as we perceive it to be?
After the service I spoke with one member of the congregation, and at almost the same time we asked each other, “why are so many within Christian circles so uncomfortable with silence?”
Search the net, or go into any book shop these days and you won’t have to search very hard to find books on self-help and mindfulness, many of which if you dip into them, encourage the art of taking deep breaths, and “centring yourself” by being conscious of this moment, as sitting in silence, you calm your thoughts.
Of course King David was light years ahead of them all when in Psalm 46 verse 10 he advises the reader to “be still and know that I AM, is God,” an instruction which for me is one kernel of my faith which I continually both need and am happy to affirm, that God as God, not me, not me thinking “positive” thoughts, nor my being over “mindful of me,” but God as Lord over all, is in control.
However it still brings me back to my original question and which I’ve sat with for some weeks now, “why do I tend to be afraid, or at least feel awkward with pregnant pauses and silences? Why indeed do so many of our church services fail to leave silent, still spaces, within the whole? What is it I think God is going to say to me, to us, if I, we, really listen?” Or perhaps a different slant on the same question might be “who do I really understand God to be, that I often struggle to simply sit, not just still, but silent in His company?”
Several years ago I attended a woman’s conference where I sat opposite a lady, unknown to me, while we had our evening meal. As we spoke and swapped some of our personal stories she threw this blinder of a question at me, “what would it take to settle you in this now as you wait for the then of heaven?” Three years and more down life’s road, I still find myself sometimes asking the same question? “What indeed Lord, what will it take to settle me in this now as I wait for your then?”
(Please note I am not supplying answers here, rather just posing some heart-felt questions….)
All the above said, I am very thankful that some settling has come, because life, which for a long season, was stormy with “too much,” has now calmed down. But back to the questions posed. Do you know, having tossed and turned with some of the above, honestly – I’m not sure I will ever this side of eternity, fully get to understand who God is, and also, rightly or wrongly, I’m not sure that I want to! It may be naive of me, but I have always said that I like that the One I choose to worship has a mystery to His nature. A quote by Evelyn Underhill says this,
“If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped.”
Like Underwood, I know that if I ever got to the place of being able to work God out, if by my praying according to a correct formula I could somehow twist Gods arm to answer my prayers in ways that suited me, then He would no longer be a God who I wanted to bow worship anyway!
And so perversely in the end, I think I like that sometimes I am afraid of the silence simply because my God is a Holy God to whom, and for whom, I need to show reverence and awe for when I sit in His presence. I like not fully understanding the Mystery of who it is I worship. And because our journeys through life often include a need for balance, I think that part of my own journey is also to keep searching for a deeper understanding and a true knowing in my heart, and not just in my head, of the height and breath of the Fathers deep, unconditional love for me.(Ephesians 3:18) A searching which I pray will allow me then to be utterly comfortable to just sit silently in His presence, and to be still as He settles me in this now while I wait for the then.
And so I pray.
Yours in Him,