Walking Our Faith: Voices follow me through the house (Column)
April 29, 2017
From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, until I close them at night, voices follow me through the house.
In the evening, I look at my to-do list and wonder how it got away from me, why a writing assignment is not done yet, why the book I'd planned to read will have to go back to the library half finished.
The voices that interrupt my day are not from children or spouse and so far, Henry and Max have not begun speaking, they are the best dogs in the world, but they are dogs, after all.
The voices are from the constant flow of news that I have running in the background from morning until night. I turn it on and promise that I'll turn it off again in thirty minutes. Then two hours have lapsed and I haven't done a thing except gape at the latest antics of the political herd in Washington, D.C.
What I need to remind myself, what we all need to remind ourselves, is that our silent retreat, practiced daily, is the most valuable part of our day. If we make this our daily practice, our lives will grow in peace and happiness.
My spiritual life suffers from the non-stop chattering box. I cut my devotions short because I want to get back to the news, or I tell myself I have more pressing things to begin, so I make no time for the patient silence I need to hear the voice of God.
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This morning, I ran across an article in which Pope Francis recommended we carry our Bible in the same way that we carry our smart phones. Through the day, we should consult the Bible as often as we consult our phones. The irony of course is that I saw this article as I scrolled through my Facebook feed — feed, by the way is exactly what Facebook is doing. Feeding me instead of being fed by the Bible.
So, this morning I turned off the television and sat down with my Bible and did the daily reading listed in my Lectio Divina journal, where I am encouraged to read the Bible passage aloud contemplatively two or three times, listening for God's message. When I spend time in silence with God, reading his holy word, praying and listening, I feel happy, encouraged, inspired. One would think that this positive result would make reading my Bible every morning automatic. Yet, some mornings I find myself rushing, with the excuse that I need to start my day and get on with important tasks. Yet, what could be more important than spending time with God?
After my Bible reading, I picked up a book by one of my favorite spiritual authors, Henri J.M. Nouwen, and read this passage:
"The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance, and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention. Let us therefore look somewhat closer, first at our life in action, and at our life in solitude."
As I consider my own life, I discover that when I work in silence I am more productive and serene. Time flies and my writing is fluid. The only voice I hear is in my mind and it is me, composing the next sentence.
When I read the Bible, especially when I read the words aloud, I hear new ideas, hidden gems that I had not considered before. And I am surprised by joy.
I often think how blessed I am to live in my mountain neighborhood where we have dirt roads, where trees outnumber people by 1000 to 1, and where it's so dark at night that you can't see your hand in front of your face once you turn out the lights. What I especially treasure is the sound of silence. A silence so pure I can hear the snow fall. I recently watched a news story which said that silence is a vanishing commodity in our bustling world. I thought how lucky I was to live in a place where I can still enjoy silence's calming elixir.
But then I checked my smugness. I pollute my peace all too often with mindless television that is not enriching my life. I am not advocating a Luddite's return to reading by kerosene lamps. But I know my spiritual life is much richer when I spend time with the television off and my Bible open, and my mind quieted in contemplative prayer. In the silence, I meet God. What I need to remind myself, what we all need to remind ourselves, is that our silent retreat, practiced daily, is the most valuable part of our day. If we make this our daily practice, our lives will grow in peace and happiness.
The slower pace of May is the perfect time to start. Let's set aside fifteen minutes each day to: 1. read a short passage in our Bible, the Gospel of St. John or the Psalms are lovely, and 2. sit in silence with God. Will you join me?