Sitting in silence. Waiting. Listening. Breathing. A discipline that I have often enjoyed, being a slight introvert. I've often spent quiet moments sitting in a chair or walking in the woods. It typically fills me up and re-energizes me.
For the Spiritual Formation class that I'm taking, we have been asked to practice silence as a spiritual discipline. When I first began back in November I looked forward to this time. It often has helped me to refocus and de-stress. However this time I began to notice how much noise I had let into my life. No music, no videos, no conversations. Just me and silence. As I continued this practice and removed the first layer of noise, I then noticed the second layer of distractions and thoughts. There was a lot of clutter in my mind. I just didn't notice because it was covered in noise. But these distractions of all the house work, bills, studies, schedules, care for the girls, sump pump, other issues with the house... were now uncovered. I then took some space to write them out and make a plan in my calendar to address some of them. So I continued with silence.
The third layer then emerged - loneliness and sadness. Oh this is not what I expected friends. I thought I was moving forward and beginning to get beyond some of these emotions. But I was only distracting myself from this journey of grief. These are real human emotions and appropriate for what I've been through. Losing a loved one hurts deeply. My wife was my soul-mate. We were "one flesh." Part of her lives in me and part of me died with her. I feel the void in my heart and miss her. But silence provided the atmosphere for me to remove those other layers so I could address loneliness and sadness. If I don't address them, they would emerge in a more fierce way in the future. They would seek to hi-jack my mind, will and emotions and lead me to a bitter end. We need to move through these emotions like a surfer on waves. Ride the waves and paddle forward.
I wish I could say that I'm past these emotions, but I'm not yet. However, each day as they occur we are given a choice. Do I choose to self-medicate and fill the void with a distraction or a means of trying to control it? Or do I acknowledge it's there, present it to God in prayer and do what's next? We so easily fall into the trap of temptations that try to fill the void apart from God. The remedy I've found so far is God's grace and mercy. God gives grace for today. It's underserved and it's a gift.
As I try to manage my own grief, there are several other people going through losses and potential losses around me. And Koby Bryant's death brought back my sadness and loneliness too. Silence has helped reveal these things to me, but it's not the total picture of what is needed. Yes, I need time alone in silence to re-center myself on Christ. But I've also become aware within this loneliness the need for community. At points I've prayed for and hoped that a community would spontaneously come offer support and encouragement. But silence. So I reached out but circumstances and schedules just didn't line up with others. It's as if in all my praying and God's seeming silence, God then pipes up and says, "Todd, I'm with you. All you need is me. But now go and be that community for others who are lonely and sad." Part of the answer for my loneliness, is to extend myself to others who are lonely. God provides as we serve others.
Now this may not be the case for everyone. But I think if we are in fellowship with God (1 John 1), we will be able to bring the light of His fellowship to others, even when we don't have the strength, because He is our strength.
Silence has drudged up the mire and muck that was within me. It brought forward the layers of noise, distractions and emotions that grief brought into my soul. But it also brought to light the sin in my heart. In those times of being alone we can hear God's whispers, "I'm here. Wait for me." But besides our own sinful desire, Satan or one of his minions also whispers to us,
"God's really not being fair, is He! He took your wife, your ministry and now you are all alone and no one cares. He is so unjust. Why bother anymore? Look how everyone else is so blessed. You've been faithful, but you have lost so much. You are sad and rightly so. You are lonely. Well if God isn't going to help you, go take matters into your own hands. Get what you need! Do it now!"
God's words are few. Satan's words many and will eventually lead to more pain, sadness and harm if listened to. I've talked with a lot of widows/widowers over the last couple years. A few have made the choice to marry just a few months after the death of their loved one. I can't judge if that was God's will or not. But I do know they have not fully processed their grief and will not make decisions without clouded judgement. A couple people have even said that they'd rather be single again because their new marriage is very difficult or even not healthy. We should heed their words and take our time in grieving. Silence is one of those disciplines that can be helpful in revealing what lies beneath the surface in our interior, our soul.
Confession is another discipline that has mostly been forgotten in mainstream Christianity. It's basically presenting to God in prayer, our needs, weaknesses and sin. It's a crying out to the Lord who is able to bring what we really need. The Apostle John states in a letter:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
Turning toward Jesus and confessing our struggle, our weakness, our control and our sins brings forgiveness and purity. The problem is that our will often doesn't want to let go of the control. Yet submission to Jesus has proven to bring freedom! Why do we wrestle and struggle and fight and resist this simple offer? Our old nature is ruled by our sinful nature, but once we began as a believer in Jesus, the new man begins to resist the sinful nature. The sinful nature lives by the law of sin and death. The Spirit of Christ offers grace and life. Romans 7 and Galatians 5 explain this more in detail, as well as other parts of the Letters from Paul (Epistles).
As I have taken this journey through silence, I've been having to face my grief and the things that come with it. How long would I have buried sadness and loneliness without confronting them? Many people live their entire lives never recognizing the healing and hope that is available in Jesus. The healing is offered through Jesus alone. It cost him his life to purchase it for us. And His invitation is packaged in silence and a whisper. The alternative is to continue to self medicate ourselves with "everything under the sun," noise, media, music, work, projects, people, busyness, drugs, alcohol, you name it.
So how about giving it a try? Sit in silence and let God peal back the layers. It may take time but you will find healing and freedom! Jesus says:
"Come to me..." you who are lonely. You who are sad and depressed. Learn My ways. Give to Me your burdens, your weaknesses, your struggles, your sin. I offer you rest for your weary souls.
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