Monday, 17 October 2011

Silence and chaos

Me again, Lord.

You'll never guess what I'm doing tomorrow.

There's a stupid thing to say, since you knew before I did.

Well, I'm going on a Quiet Day. From morning till mid afternoon I shall be quiet. I can sense you smiling.

This isn't the first time I've had a chance to do this, but it's the first time I've said yes. I think the reasons I've shied away from a quiet day several times before are that I'm a bit frightened by the idea.  I'm not very good at being quiet.  Being the mum of two small children with a To Do list as long as my arm means that I often long for peace and quiet, but what I mean by peace and quiet is perhaps not the same as Quiet. I like to have an early night where I sit here in bed like I am now, with my little laptop, a coffee and my wheaty. I like to sit and read. I like to listen to music and I like to fall asleep. All of those things are peaceful for me, but all except the last one require a prop of some sort. I am not the sort of person who spends much time alone with my thoughts, and I'm afraid that I don't spend much time with you in prayer, either. So, five hours of quiet. And I'm not supposed to take my computer with me. Or spend time checking email or Facebook or playing games on my phone.

I have no idea what I expect to get out of this day. I have long thought that I need some space; what tends to happen to me when I get too stressed is the feeling that things are closing in on me. I get a stifled, trapped sort of feeling. The opposite sensation from the 'spacious place' feeling which is when I feel free and relaxed. The claustrophobic feeling I get is when problems crowd in on me and my shoulders are tense and raised up a few inches. My emotions are much closer to the surface and although I can be alright superficially, I am not equipped to cope with stuff that might happen. I am fine, and I seem fine, but let something go wrong and I have no reserve.

Like church on Sunday. The children weren't particularly badly behaved but they were giggling and generally acting like four and six year olds and whether I was or not I felt observed and disapproved of in my inability to get them to sit quietly or join in the singing. I couldn't hold back tears and ended up dragging them outside. Their behaviour, while not great, didn't warrant being whisked out of church but I was brittle enough to have cracked with a bit of pressure.

That's how I am at the moment. A veneer of 'I'm fine, thanks'ness and beneath that, a bit of a mess. So I am coming to get away from the place I usually am to come and sit with you in the hope that you might restore me a little.

The other reason I'm coming is to try and see if I can sit with you a while and listen. And maybe I'll come away feeling clearer. All year I have been at some sort of crossroads without really understanding where or why or which way next. I have felt you calling me to a deeper relationship with you, and since Katy has started school I've wondered what you want me to do with my time. Maybe you've been telling me all this time and I've been too busy with...what? to listen. I want to try again tomorrow.

A few days ago I wrote about crossing a river, like the Israelites. About having the courage to put a foot in the rushing water without knowing when the torrent will stop, but just having the faith to step out. Maybe tomorrow you'll give me some idea of what this means for me.

Lord, I would love it if you would speak to me as you do to some people I know who seem to have a hotline. I know a couple of folks who ask you questions and then seem to get answers from you. Those who say things like, 'The Lord told me this...' and 'I feel that God is telling me that....'

I ask and ask and hear nothing in particular.  My answers always seem to be hindsight-type answers where your purpose might become clear months, years down the line. I would love to be the person who could hear you. To know you so well that your voice was clear despite the background noise. I suspect that it might take more than a Quiet Day to get there, though, Father. It might well be a life's work.

So anyway, I am off on a Quiet Day. With mixed feelings, really. Part of me is relishing the idea of quiet and peace and slowness. Another side of me is worried that there is so much I should be getting on with that I'm wasting time and won't be able to focus or relax anyway because of the lists in my head. Back to the optimistic part of me and I want to find some peace, proper peace, an active thing, not just the absence of chaos. The pessimistic side of me counters by saying that that is impossible as the chaos will come with me because it's in my mind. It might take weeks of silence to let the noise and confusion settle a bit.

But I don't have weeks. I have a day, to start with; five hours of silence in which to try to be still, to slow down my mind which is so often racing and full of jumbled things. To try to break through the fog in my head and find a bit of clarity. To listen for your voice in case you want to say anything, but to sit a while on the riverbank with you and enjoy your company.

This is exciting and scary and daunting and appealing and challenging all at the same time. Oh, listen to me. How hard can it be? It's only a day. I'm not going on a remote retreat for six months with only a camel for company. Lunch is provided. I can smuggle in my phone if I want; I doubt if this thing is policed. I'll get out what I put in, I'm sure. And I do want to get something out of it. I'm just not sure what.

Help me to find you, Father. I'm not good at looking for you and I'm terrible at waiting and being still. Five hours seems like a long time. I just want to give you this day. Take it and use it, Lord. Help me to be open to whatever you want. Lead me wherever you want me to go. Whether it's to think, to pray, to listen, to write or even to sleep, lead the way. I've got such a long way to go and I can only take baby steps. I'm tired and confused and fragile and I want to let go and let you.

I'm off to sleep now. I'll see you in the morning.

Looking forward to it. 

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