It is a gift indeed to awaken to a cool, damp stillness, the air thick with green. A pervasive fog has sprawled itself over the lazy landscape, coating everything in the misty otherworldliness of coastal life. The air feels finished, like many of the best ingredients, absent in the Yakima dust, are present here.
Dear God, how I’m made for this. My body feeds on its wealth. And my dry, wizened spirit is likewise, refreshed.
As I’ve mentioned, I am on a week-long preparation for a vocal procedure later this week that requires total vocal rest and copious amounts of Prednisone. This means of course that I get a robust two hours of sleep every night, during which time I’d prefer to be punching something than struggling to sleep. I guess I thought the nuns here able competitors should things go south. But, despite the raggedy experience of steroids, St. Placid is, if only for a few days, home. And here I can capitalize on the silence in pursuing the attentions and intentions of God. That, and nap, as things would have it.
When one finally shuts up with words, other more prominent voices become clearer and more pervasive. And once pervasive, persuasive. Gone are the constant interplay of questions that never needed asking in the first place, now requiring answers. The small talk niceties that are social expectation more than interpersonal necessities. The interjections into conversations with your own, much better versions of things. Someone poses a query, whereupon you can sweep in with the most impressive tales of conquest and adventure, guaranteed to impress the room and justify your significance before all present (most of said adventures happened to someone else on your favourite YouTube channel anyway).
Clear out the clutter and the soul perks up considerably. You begin to rediscover what’s truly precious and real. One’s deepest yearnings reappear in the absence of competition. My soul has much to say these days. And the heart settles into a calm stasis with the God who never left but whose mouth I’ve unwittingly clothes-pinned shut. “Lord, please don’t interrupt while I’m interrupting. It’s rude and I’ll get to you soon enough with my laundry list of requirements, otherwise called ‘prayer requests.’”
I’m the undisputed champion of drifting in and out of crisis. And, I am again at a crossroads, the intersection of lost and found, good and great, ego and spirit. Historically, I don’t do well there. Knee-jerk reactions to the discomfort of unknowing, uncertainty, and discouragements have left me – and those around me – with many unnecessary scars.
To be here is, if nothing else, a good jumping off point into the great Silence. Sometimes, just to be convinced anew of things I’ve always known, is enough to offer repose to a stormy heart. I can take myself alongside the likes of Job who didn’t rejoice because God had all the right answers to his every question. He rejoiced in the comfort of God’s presence made manifest after God’s long vacation. God showed up. The rest was icing.
But God did so much more. God helped Job to broaden and expand his horizons toward himself and the context in which he and his God could relate. In short, God annoyed Job with pages of gorgeous rhetoric. Answers came, first, in presence, and second, in better questions which invited him into a relationship of asking, seeking, knocking and, occasionally at least, weeping.
“Don’t ask that,” God seems to say, “ask this instead.” And, in the process, Job’s little world so fraught by pain and despair is opened wide to see things far beyond his ken. There, he finds renewal, hope, and strength.
Best of all, Job is justified by God in full view of his overly zealous, preachy friends. They typify those with nothing better to do than toss around Bible verses, which by the way, is the ideologue’s means of proving their own self-professed authority over things they only think they understand.
God has placed Job in a spacious place and his friends, convinced of their own spaciousness, in their tiny one. Job’s world, now newly gargantuan, cosmic, and mystical, subsumes the quaintly rational question and answer, notebook faith so cherished by the faith police. Mystery brings with it the greatest gift of presence and comfort. Certainty brought table scraps – a soggy bag lunch to a tux ‘n tails banquet.
4 thoughts on “St Placid – Silent Notes from a Noisy Journal, part 2”
Beautiful, honest reflection…which invites me to reflect too. Thanks friend. And, you’re in my prayers that all will be well.
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Thanks, Kent. Keep that mystic-contemplative-activist flame burnin’, brother!
To me, dear fiend, the following statement you make illuminates the deepest truth of the Contemplative stance: “Don’t ask that,” God seems to say, “ask this instead.” And, in the process, Job’s little world so fraught by pain and despair is opened wide to see things far beyond his ken.” Like Job, in my humble experience, it has been most helpful to stop seeking answers (although the ‘process’ of discernment sometimes feels like that). Instead, God seems to prompt us to seek the right question(s), rather than looking for CERTITUDE (i.e. the right answer). Am I hearing you rightly?
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Absolutely. We often think we need answers when what God most wants to give is Presence. Once God “shows up” everything else pales in the light of God. We almost don’t require anything further. The face of God where once there was “absence” is answer enough.