I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken. ~ Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT)
I’ve called myself a backyard hermit for quite a while now. Well, now I’m a back porch hermit. Can’t live in the South without a screened porch. Being alone in silence is a necessary part of being me, being faithful. I discovered that early on, probably because I’ve never been good at being silent in a study group, in a crisis, with strangers. You name the activity; it was hard for me to hold my tongue. I couldn’t control it so I decided I needed something outside of myself to find silence both externally and internally.
A novel read in high school ultimately led me to visit the career counseling library. Nope, didn’t research how to be a mime. Instead, I pulled catalogues from Benedictine convents and monasteries. It didn’t matter I was Methodist. The balance of prayer, singing, work and Grand (yes, it was capitalized) Silence calmed a storm in my life at the time. The Benedictine way gave me discernment and strength to move forward.
Ultimately, my journey led me to become a Methodist minister who took days off to retreat in silence. I hiked around our state parks, Catholic spiritual centers, the beach, botanical gardens, even a hermitage in New Mexico, all to seek God. In the day to day chatter, I could miss even big billboard messages –with flashing lights even. But all it took was not talking, getting away from television and people, to focus on God again. Those times centered me, grounded me, healed me.
I needed and need those times because, well, um, as much as I can go days in isolation, it’s STILL hard for me to be silent. Social media and the news of the day have seen to that. I need silence in order NOT to be silent.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”―Dietrich Bonhoeffer
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
In these troubled days, I retreat to my screened porch hermitage and listen to livestreams of Rev. Dr. William Barber and others who preach and teach on race, class, poverty, civil rights, and social justice. I’ve heard Dr. Barber say, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did back in the 1930s, as Martin Luther King did in the 1960s, the words, “we cannot stand by and be silent.”
“We cannot stand by and be silent.” Mighty powerful words against injustice are spoken, shouted, sung by well-known preachers and everyday folk. Scriptures, personal stories of strength and resistance, beloved hymns float through the air. Before this admonishment, after hours of silent reading, writing and meditating, a moment of silent prayer said to give us the words Jesus wants us to use even if they are already written down. JUST praying about an injustice or crisis or wrong committed doesn’t do it. Using the “I’ll be praying” excuse because we are reluctant to speak out or believe something doesn’t matter in our Christian worldview is indeed doing something. Words gotta spill out.
We, as Jesus followers, need the silent in order not to be silent in the face of injustice. I have learned to tame my brain and my tongue totally. Everyone is a work in progress. But I’ve learned it takes the gift of silent communion with God to get rid of my own excuses and gather God’s strength and Word instead. Seeking God, the right words, the tone of Jesus, is just a beginning before we break our silence and speak up as prophets, preachers, teachers and witnesses. We need silence in order not to be silent.