Those of you, who know me well, know that I love to converse. I have often said I should have gone into psychology so I could just sit and listen to people talk all day long, not to belittle what psychologists do, because I believe psychology is a noble profession. I just think I’d like to try to provide people with a listening ear that is attached to a thinking mind that can hopefully provide some insight or some tools to make life better or, at least, more cope-able for them. Perhaps I became a teacher, because for as much as I like to listen to other people talk, I also love to talk myself, not to myself. I went on a silent meditation retreat a few years ago, and as much I love to converse with others, the silent retreat was a refreshing change. I’m starting to think God wants me to revisit this silent retreat for some parts of Lent.
When I opened my Verse & Voice email from Sojourners Magazine, I found this quote from Hans Urs Von Balthasar: “The silence required of the Christian is not found fundamentally and primarily of human making. Rather, believers must realize that they already possess within themselves and at the same time in God the quiet, hidden ‘chamber’ into which they are to enter and in which they are with [God].” This was preceded by a Benedict of Nursia quote from my morning prayers: “How much more important it is to refrain from evil speech, remembering what such sins bring down on us in punishment. In fact so important is it to cultivate silence. After all, it is written in scripture that one who never stops talking cannot avoid falling into sin. Another text in the same book reminds us that the tongue holds the key to death and life.” Both of these quotes work together, serving as an excellent reminder to me that I need to stop and listen. To people. To God. To nature. I simply need to listen.
I am too quick to offer my opinions and my advice. Sometimes I sit in conversations waiting to say my piece, not necessarily listening to what the other person is saying, instead formulating my response to what it is I think they’re going to say (or are saying). I confess that I don’t always care what the other person is going through, because I am feeling so wounded myself, so I really only wanted to meet for drinks, coffee, lunch, or whatever because I needed healing. I forget that maybe they are feeling the same wounded way, maybe more so.
If you’re someone who’s been slighted by me, I’m sorry, but I don’t just do this to other people. I ignore or have one-sided conversations with God, too. I have had the audacity to come to prayer with God with the sole intention of airing my grievances, my grief, my suggestions for improvements, and/or my angst. I have forgotten to listen to what God has to say to me, or worse yet, I have blatantly ignored God. Sometimes in my life I might say that I can’t feel or hear God, but I think that might just be an excuse I’ve used when I didn’t want to feel or hear. It also might be an excuse I use when I choose to talk too much and listen too little.
I think God is reminding me to slow down, listen hard, and shut my mouth for a minute. I feel like I should celebrate this with silence. While running? While swimming? While praying? But really all three of those are the same, right? How else can I celebrate silence this Lent? When can I be still and listen to God?
I always feel like I am called to fast during Lent, but I never know exactly what that might look like until I get to where God shows me. I feel (because spirituality is a good portion intuition) that God is calling me to—and I am going to honor—a fast for Holy Week. So from Palm Sunday through Easter, I plan to eat one evening meal each day, fasting from breakfast and lunch. Once I’ve celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, I am going to participate in the Whole 30, which is a pretty strict version of paleo that lasts for thirty days and supposedly rejuvenates your bodies ability to digest food and feel its Circadian rhythms. My goal is to do the Whole 30 from April 8 through May 8.