Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. Have you found that? Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. Yelling out. Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me: She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’ She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call. I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.
Many people ask me how to respond to sorrow and grief. Why? Who knows. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been quite honest and upfront about my own journey. Perhaps people think I’ve got something to say. What ever it is, I’m constantly honoured when people ask me my advice.
As I’ve talked about in earlier posts, I’m naturally a terrible introvert. I’m most comfortable living in my own world of uncommon sense, enjoying a tidal wave of thoughts every second, lapping up the totality of humanity and enjoying my small contribution to those around me. For me, the question ‘what are you thinking’ can be an incredibly difficult question to ask! I often have to get over the thoughts of ‘these are my thoughts, not your thoughts! You can’t think my thoughts, they are mine, get your own thoughts to think about!’. Then I realise they (usually my wife!) just want to know what I’m thinking, because, well that’s what gals like to do. They arn’t wanting to steal my thoughts (which are my thoughts to think), they just want to know.Odd creatures.
Not too long ago, I talked about the serendipity of silence, in relation to being quiet within yourself. Friendship can be much the same way, as can responding to grief.
There is an art to being with someone. To being able to be there – just being – physically, emotionally or mentally. To communicate an essay of emotion without even mentioning a syllable. I actually think guys can be better then girls at this. Why? Who knows. I think guys just get that sometimes, you’ll talk when you’re ready, and only when the required pre-conditions are met for communication.
Sometimes you can say it all, without saying a word. The sum of shared experiences that bind a pair of people can sometimes mean so much more then, well, words.
For me, I quite enjoy listening to others. I love the concept of someones story. I love hearing the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I love a good laugh.
Sometimes, the best way to journey (not help, journey) with someone through grief is just by being there. There’s probably nothing you can say that will take the pain away. You can’t apologise for someones loss. You probably can’t fathom what they are feeling. What you can do is be there.
It’s often through silence that you get the best conversations. The biggest insights. The most powerful breakthroughs. Some things you cant rush with words. The crassness of communication turns a journey of grief into a destination that needs to be ‘talked through’.
I think one of the greatest respects you can pay a friend is the respect of silence. Of understanding that you both don’t have to talk. The respect of being. Some might consider this an incredibly shallow friendship – however, I think contrary to this. It certainly does not replace the pillars of friendship that include intimacy, openness and a shared history. What the respect of silence says to your companion is that silence isn’t a gap between you. It’s not a void that needs to be filled with words. It’s actually an invisible bond between you.
I observed two old friends at a funeral recently. Usually very chatty, no words were minced or wasted between the pair during the season of mourning. I watched as they stood together, strolled together through the green expanse of the cemetery and enjoyed the closeness of a silent bond together. Neither had to say a word to each other – each knew silence was all they needed to convey their deepest sympathies to each other.
It’s the totality of your walk together. The sum of your shared experiences. It’s a respect, often hard earned through lifes hard knocks.
So next time you are at a loss to support someone, especially someone in grief, support them with silence. Support them with an acknowledgement of being. That they don’t need to say or justify anything they are thinking or feeling. That you love, respect and want to support them just the way they are.
Silence. It brings with it more heartfelt communication then the most beautifully constructed sentence that you can ever construct.
Image lifted from https://www.flickr.com/photos/faris-khalifeh/2068051840/?rb=1