Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Silent Answers

I'm not the kind of person who does those cheesy, overdone blog posts like: 30 Things I Learned Before I Turned 30 or 10 Ways I Improved My Life in 10 Days.  That's just not my style.  Yet, as I sit in a very quiet library during a very long, low-traffic period behind the circulation desk, my mind has begun to wander into realms of contemplation I rarely have time to explore, much less put into words. 

What have I learned in the last 5, 10, 20 years of my life?

Why am I where I am right now, in this very place and time and season?

What am I to do with the amount of silence I currently seem to experience, both in reality and spiritually, and why does this silence no longer scare me?

And in the midst of these thoughts, one question which has been a constant companion from the first time I ever heard until now remains:

Oh Lord, our Sovereign...when I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?

Such questions as these are insulted by shallow platitudes or answers full of their own morality.  Instead, these queries deserve to be chewed on, experienced, appreciated from all angles, and given the two-fold power to attest to change and enact change on and in the inquisitor.   

In allowing this process to occur, no matter how joyful or painful, tense or relaxed it may be, I come to an answer (not the but an) for a very small portion of my questioning thoughts: why does silence no longer scare me? 

As a child, silence was a fertile ground in which fear grew.  I would wake up in the middle of the night when the house was dark and everyone else was asleep and be overwhelmed with the vastness of the absence of light and sound.  I look back at that 7-year-old hiding under the blankets, starting at every little noise, and long to take her into my arms and tell her that the thing that brings her fear is, in the end, a place of comfort and rest before God.  What my young mind and spirit could not grasp in those moments of fear is that silence and darkness are frightening places to be, because they strip us of every distraction and separation and place us vulnerable before the Most High God, the all-powerful, all-loving Sovereign Lord.  Silence draws out the question: Who am I that You are mindful of me? 

The answer to this question is not so important as the genuine asking of it.  To ask is to open oneself to wonder, to inquire, to search deeper for what God's response might be.  And in God's goodness, the answer is an ever-deepening richness of relationship with the Triune God. 

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


A wonderful friend of mine made an interesting comment to me this week that I have been mulling over in my head.  Disheartened at not seeing her as often as is usual but understanding that sometimes life just gets in our way, I decided to step out and question the status of our relationship, really just wanting to make sure it was life "intruding" and not something else.  She assured me all was well, and admitted that sometimes she could be quite self-sufficient, which could put forth an unintended vibe.  This got me to thinking, what is the the value of self-sufficiency?

(Before I delve into this, whatever the outcome of my argument may be, it is in no way a personal reflection or judgment on a friend who means a great deal to me.  This is intended as an unraveling of my own thoughts and feelings as to how this topic has been presented to me in the past, and what place it has in my life now and in the future.)

I must honestly and sincerely confess to being envious of my friend.  Self-sufficiency is a thing which I think I have and still long for in greater measure.  Various factors throughout my life have led me to believe that an independent nature--being able to take care of myself--is the ultimate sign of adulthood, the epitome of what it means to be a grown-up, respected human being.  Indeed, the idea that self-sufficiency means I rely on no one but myself and my immediate family (i.e. Justin) seems to cater to my introverted personality.  And let's face it, independence/self-sufficiency is a driving force behind the "American Identity."  You don't see us celebrating Dependence Day, do you?  I grew up believing if I could achieve self-sufficiency, I would unlock the door to the future I wanted: financial stability, congenial relationships, etc. 

But, look at me now...

My marriage is both a testament to my independent nature and the depth of my necessary dependence on others.  Where my independence is concerned, I think I would rather call it self-strength (although even this does not wholly express what I wish).  Life with Justin has brought forth in me a strength I didn't know I had.  The "me" who once feared talking to strangers and making waves now has no problem taking charge of social situations to see to Justin's comfort.  The "me" who never could have dreamed I could carry the emotional and physical weight of being a caregiver, now performs those duties every day.  But even in this, I do not do it alone.  We have an attendant who comes and helps Justin in the mornings, we have family who help us meet needs when we are unable, we depend on government programs to help provide proper medical care for Justin.  And still, in the lonely moments when there is no one else and it is all on my shoulders--I am still not alone.  God is with me. 

But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Difficult as it is to admit, my longing for self-sufficiency in the way I have understood it in the past is nothing less than a slap in the face to what God has done, is doing, and will do in my life and the life of all God's children.  The way I was brought up to view self-sufficiency leaves no room for the in-breaking of God's grace or God's call to community.  It is a scary and trepidatious thing to be vulnerable before God and our neighbor, but vulnerability is a necessary element to loving both of them, which is the summary of the Law given by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.  Vulnerability admits weakness, revealing the cracks the plaster of my self-sufficiency and independence covers up only poorly.  I was raised to believe the strength of independence would make me happy, successful, and wise.  Oh, how easy it is to forget that the better way is weakness, the wiser path is vulnerability, the strongest way is dependence.