“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” – Mark 16:8
I woke up yesterday morning after a lovely, vivid dream. I dreamt a whole bunch of us were having dinner—a feast, I might say—over at Sarah Bessey’s house with Rachel Held Evans as a special guest from out of town. (If you read this and hope you could have been there, you were. It was that kind of feast.)
Just imagine the conversation, the laughter, the good food, the soft candles, the generosity of spirits, the meeting of hearts. Communion, truly.
It was a big night, even in my dream. One of those nights that would be marked in memory. But I woke up frustrated, because in my dream, I didn’t know how to write about it. I hadn’t tweeted about it or shared it on facebook. My frustration lay in my struggle to share the big, beautiful moment.
My dream revealed that layer of my frustration of how I struggle to write out my life—the ordinary moments, but especially the big moments. I sensed there was something for me there. Somewhere for me to go stand.
I stopped at Starbucks after dropping the kids off and tried to write it out in my journal.
What is the block between the experience and the communicating? Between the living and the sharing? Lord, please speak to me.
Not that everything needs to be shared. Sometimes beautiful moments are just that. Beautiful moments. Tables lingered over. Conversations shared. Sacred.
My struggle is not in the experiencing of beautiful, holy moments. I am grateful for the learned ability to slow down and pause, to breathe in the holy when it comes visiting in my daily. I know how to fling open my arms and embrace Heaven on an ordinary walk through the fall trees and the rain. I know how to chase after beauty … The ones who linger on my couches and sit at our table will probably tell you that. I know how to be silent. I actually crave it.
But how do I go from in to out?
How do I move from silence to words?
In his classic book “Can you drink the cup?” Henri Nouwen writes about the discipline of the word–the second discipline in drinking our whole cup and living fully.
He moves through it this way: silence -> the word -> action.
It’s on the second discipline where I am pausing right now. Circling slowly.
“It is not enough to claim our sorrow and joy in silence,” writes Nouwen. “We also must claim them in a trusted circle of friends. To do so we need to speak about what is in our cup. As long as we live our deepest truth in secret, isolated from a community of love, its burden is too heavy to carry. The fear of being known can make us split off our true inner selves from our public selves and make us despise ourselves even when we are acclaimed and praised by many.”
The silence–the place where we stare our core self in the face–contains both sorrows and joys. Both need to be shared.
“Silence without speaking is as dangerous as solitude without community. They belong together,” Nouwen adds.
It’s not everyone who needs to hear about what is in our cup. Nouwen says, it would be “tactless, unwise, and even dangerous to expose our innermost being to people who cannot offer us safety and trust. That does not create community; it only causes mutual embarrassment and deepens our shame and guilt.”
We are also not made to remain in the silence.
As a writer, maybe as a woman, I struggle with this. Ideas are shaped and formed in my head, but it would be easy for them to remain there. Like eggs never hatched.
Perhaps this expression is simply my individual struggle, but then I read that passage in Mark 16 again and I wonder if this is something greater we as a womanhood struggle with?
In Mark 16, we encounter the story of the women meeting the angel who tells them of a risen Christ. It’s big news. Glorious news. He even gives them an assignment—to go and tell his disciples and Peter that they’ll see Jesus in Galilee.
But the women have this response:
“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” Mark 16:8
They said nothing to anyone. They kept quiet. Kept it to themselves. Didn’t say a thing. Zilch.
There’s a paralysis in the silence. An unformed maturity. A flower that remains in the bud. Good news not shared.
When we remain silent, we don’t grow in our expression. Our thoughts and words remain hesitant, weak, immature, like the legs of a baby foul. God’s intention for us is not that. God’s intention for us is that our words would have creative power. That our speech would birth forth messianic sentences. Not wobbly, toddler sentences, but strong, beautiful, God-filled, mature sentences.
Just like Mary, we are meant to be carriers of The Word. We are meant to birth the divine into the chaos and despair with full-formed, future-eye sentences. But too often we tremble and shrink into silence.
I know I do.
Then I read the story of Joshua with Telah at bedtime again last night. Even in this children’s version of the story, the words filled me with a different trembling. A take-notice-there’s-something-here-trembling. The Israelites came up against something impenetrable—a wall—something they were utterly powerless against and God instructed them to march around it seven times. They didn’t attack it with swords or canons, but marched around the wall six times, blowing trumpets. Then the seventh time, they raised their both voices and instruments. They shouted as loud as they could.
I can’t get that out of my head, that a sound–their collective shout—was what made the wall crumble.
And I can’t help but wonder if this silence is something bigger we are circling here.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, because I am learning and circling here and I imagine this is something, like the Israelites, we are meant to circle together:
- Do you struggle with giving expression to your thoughts and ideas–going from in to out?
- If so, do you sense it’s a personal struggle or perhaps something bigger we are a part of here?
- What’s the mirror you hold up to remind you to keep speaking out your truths?
- How do you keep from running off in silence, like the women at the tomb?
Image credit: Andy M. Taylor