My friend Bob has been harping on me lately. Every week at church, Bob finds me before or after service and shakes his head in disappointment. Bob is disappointed because I broke a promise. Not with him, but with myself. Bob just decided to tag along my promise to myself in some concept of “accountability”. What about? Well. My new year’s resolution to write 1,000 words every week. So far I’ve failed. And Bob knows. He’s let me know that he subscribed to my RSS feed looking forward to 1,000 words of pure wisdom (heh. okay so maybe not on the wisdom part.) every weekend to come pouring forth into his life… Instead, he’s opened up his RSS reader to find… silence.
To be honest, I think I’ve technically been fulfilling the 1,000. I’ve been trying to keep up with yelping, and I’ve been doing a lot of work with my class on Amos, where we are translating the book from its original Hebrew to english… Let’s just say I’ve been writing. Just not the writing I promised to Bob… er I mean myself. (At this point, if I was saying this to Bob, he will look away, stare at the ocean view from our church and let out a deep sigh that says to me without words, “excuses, excuses…”)
It’s ironic. My friend Bob has patiently been waiting for my silence to end… and I’ve desperately been looking for it.
It’s been a wild year of crazy success in ministry at MiraCosta and Palomar. 30 students who have decided to follow Jesus, the most ever, double of last year. 29 applicants for leadership next year, also the most we’ve ever had. On top of that, more and more opportunities for my influence to increase in our movement and even outside of our movement on a larger scale keep presenting themselves to me… and me with my big head (in Jr. High, one of the names the bullies called me was “Mr. Big Head, true story) and the desire to keep making it bigger, I keep saying yes, as I join committee after committee, leadership team after leadership team… The momentum of this year has been crazy. The opportunities for me just keep opening up. The student calls keep pouring in. The conference calls are increasingly populating my weekly schedule. And the thing is… it hasn’t stopped.
I’ve been in desperate need of silence. I’ve been driving aimlessly lately, looking for it, looking for that place where my heart and head will just shut up for once and I can remember who I am and let God speak for once. I’m finding myself lost in the back country roads of North County San Diego lately. I remember one such time. It was dusk. The sun was slanting through the leaves of the trees, I was on one of those country roads. The San Diego countryside is really strange. It’s the transitional zone between the coast and the desert. The landscape can’t decide if it wants to be green and lush or dry and desolate. There are large hills littered with large boulders, covered in desert brush, oak trees and palm trees. The mud in the water of my mind begins to settle… and then I’m back in civilization again, and I’ve emerged out of the wilderness into the interruptions traffic, smog and stop lights.
It’s been so hard to find that silence. Our spiritual director, during our retreats of silence, always talked about our minds being a jar of water and silt, and that silence was letting the water settle so that the silt can sink to the bottom and we can see ourselves, our surroundings and ultimately God with clarity. I finished my last 18 hour retreat of silence feeling like I needed another week of silence.
I’ve been left feeling a little lost without the silence. I’ve been driving blind, trying to take opportunities to wipe off all the bug splats and dirt from my windshield, but every time I try to clean it, another dust storm (that has probably been the product of my own success and insecurity) rages towards me from the horizon and I have to run back into my car and hope that I am driving the right direction.
But there are moments of tranquility that take me by surprise, when I least expect it, when I’m least looking for it. It’s God’s mercy, I think. I was sitting there, going crazy trying to figure out when I was going to finish all the projects I had started, calling people, reviewing campus strategies and researching the many perspectives on the book of Amos, when all of a sudden it just all came in rushing to me. I suddenly remembered the advice I was giving a leader earlier in the year who had a semi-crisis happen to her team. I told her to just stop and recognize that God initiated the crisis, and that the results of the crisis were what needed to happen, and that ultimately in the midst of chaos, God’s love for her and her team were prevailing (I was once complaining to my counselor how the worst thing about both of our jobs is that we actually have to follow the advice that we give). Somehow in the midst of all the craziness, God is still trying to speak to me. He’s been piercing through the hubris, trying to catch my attention, and if I miss it when he does so, He’ll go for it again, over and over again, until the fog is cleared and I can see His face clearly. I’m realizing the great lengths He would go through just so I can see Him.
So I sit here in stupefied tension. I’m stuck on a “crazy train” with no stop in sight, but the beauty of the “now” keeps demanding me to stop, daring me to jump the train. The burden of deadlines (and missed deadlines) looms heavily above me, but there is also an undercurrent of God’s presence piercing those clouds. He’s fighting for my attention, and I can only fight back so much until I will have to just surrender. And I guess that’s the real tension- I want that silence so badly, but I keep trying to fill it with noise. It’s because I’m addicted to the noise, thinking that this avant-garde cacophony of chaos, my ego, the needs of others, my dissatisfactions, my dreams, my passions, my annoyances, my aspirations, my future, my career decisions, my committees, my research papers, my sins, my anger, my joy, my loneliness, my… whatever- will settle the silt to the bottom. But really, it is the silt. And I have to stop driving blind. Because the only thing that can pierce through my madness is not anything in the kingdom of “my”… it will only happen through the voice of the One that is totally other from me.
And He’s been waiting for that silence so that He could actually speak in longer sentences than the short punctures through my thick cloud of busy-ness that He’s managed to get through to me. So that I could remember who He is. So that I could remember who I am.
(…and so that Bob would actually have something to read. )