Circling Silence Seven Times

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“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

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  • http://annieathome.com Annie Barnett

    Oh, Idelette. I feel like this is a window in to my unspoken process. Nouwen’s little book was the cornerstone of our marriage ceremony – we held the cup and lifted it and drank it together on the day we made our vows. That was almost a decade ago, and I think I’ve gotten a bit lost in the holding of the cup – maybe more accurately setting my cup down and gratefully contemplating the contents of other folks’ cups.

    I definitely wrestle to translate my life into words – sometimes I feel like the effort to communicate the whole of it is too much. I fear misrepresenting and get lost in the fear, give up on it and instagram a picture of soup instead. Right now I am turning to the unchanging Word and to painting with pigment rather than words to make wrestle through.

    Grateful for this post, and looking forward to learning from others’ comments.

  • http://www.smoochesfromheaven.com Michele Henter

    I agree with Annie, its fear that holds me back. Fear that what I say will fall on deaf ears. Fear of scoffers, of rejection, of sounding stupid. Even fear that I will have nothing to say, nothing to add.
    I think the struggle is both personal and a part of something bigger. For me, though, I think I lean more towards the personal as I struggle with self-esteem. Who am I to be able to speak anything worth while into anyone? It has been a struggle to find my voice, write it out as best I can, and let the cards fall where they will.
    Funny that you should use the word mirror, though, as that concept is something my husband has thrown my way. I suppose I’m still learning to look into different mirrors and not compare myself and find myself lacking.

  • CAROL C. CARDINAL

    HI DEAR IDEL. CAROL FROM VAN HERE. THANKS 4 SHARING THIS ARTICLE.

    SO TRUE N INSPIRING. I LOVE IT. U ASKED 4 SOME ADVICE ON IT. SO HERE

    GOES. 1-KEEP A NOTE BOOK BY YOUR BED. WHEN U WAKE U CAN TRY 2

    WRITE ALL U REMEMBER OF THE DREAM, IF U R NOT DOING THAT ALREADY.

    2- WRITE WHAT U FEEL COMES FROM YOUR HEART. DONT BE SILENT ANY

    MORE. YOUR STUFF IS WORTH READING N IS INSPIRING N LIFE CHANGING.

    3. AFTER U WRITE SOMETHING GO OVER YOUR NOTES.

    4.PRAY N ASK GOD WHAT U SHOULD REWRITE 2 SHARE WITH OTHERS.

    5. PRAY OTHERS WILL UNDERSTAND YOUR MESSAGE N NOT BE OFFENDED.

    6. DONT WORRY ABOUT WHO IS RECEIVING THE MESSAGE U WROTE.

    GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF THAT. JUST WRITE CASUE GOD WANTS U 2.

    DONT BE SILENT ANYMORE. IT IS NOT HEALTHY. AS 4 THE WALL IT

    FELL CAUSE THE PEOPLE DID AS GOD WANTED THEM 2 N WERE NOT SILENT.

    YES THE SHOUTING COLLASPED THE WALL BY VIBRATION OF THE SOUNDS.

    THANKS 4 SHARING. VERY INTERESTING, INSPIRING,MIND OPENING N LIFE

    CHANGING ARTICLE. LOVE IT N U. KEEP BE HEARD. KEEP WRITING. IT IS A

    GIFT GOD WANTS U 2 SHARE. HE WILL TAKE CARE OF THE READERS. SO

    NO MORE WORRIES OK.?? JUST DO IT N ENJOY IT. THANKS AGAIN 4 SHARING,

    LOVE ALWAYS, BLESSINGS N LOVE N HUGS.XOXO.CCC.

  • http://www.sarahbessey.com Sarah Bessey

    Beautiful, Idelette. As always.

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    Wow. You’ve given me so much to think about. I’ve read it twice already and decided I have to get that book. Haven’t read it. And I do think there is something more going on when it comes to expressing what is inside and putting it into words. I feel a holy hush in it. I often pray through my thoughts while I’m writing to get clarity and I need to see them before I can write them if that makes sense. I know when a sentence or phrase is sacred. It usually ends up being the one people tweet and copy in the comments.

  • http://www.arock4him.blogspot.com Amy Hunt

    This being silent thing is exactly what He is asking me not to be. It’s my challenge to be authentic and live worship. And I see His love for me. And His power in me.

  • http://www.walkingintheslowlane.blogspot.com Holly

    Oh, sweet friend, you are not alone. And that Henri Nouwen, he never fails to open up new spaces down deep, to at once challenge and encourage, love and admonish. Ironically, though, he spoke about the writing process once and I have saved it, all these years. He put words to the pinings of my heart.

    “Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust.”

    That trust he talks about is true. I have had to learn to first, trust myself. But I have also found it important to link arms with those who believe in the power of the word. Yes, when I write, I know that my words are being shared beyond the boundaries of that circle but I am emboldened to do so because I am writing “with” those who are willing to walk the thoughts out with me. Together, we walk around the wall. Together, we bring down the wall. All the while, trusting that what is revealed is truth.

    Please, embrace the silence. But also open the door and let others in. As you write, new spaces will be opened up and there will be all kinds of room for grace to flow in.

    Grace and peace be on your head, dear friend.

  • http://robinstanley.org Robin Stanley

    Words fail so often to express the true depth of knowing my heart longs for. To lay bare the tender nakedness beneath the cloak of that longing renders me still and quivering.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Powerful piece, Idelette. Thank you for it. I LOVE Holly’s comment above and that Nouwen quote, which I had forgotten, if I’ve read it. It is tough to know how much to put out into the world, how much of what’s happening on the inside, what’s growing in the silence, where we’re being stretched and pushed and sometimes whomped on the head! But I think the process, the actual physical/emotional process of putting fingertips to keyboard, is an important part of our own growth and often becomes the word that someone else needs. Finessing what is too much becomes tricky, thought, doesn’t it? I’m still working all that out. There are some stories that are only partly mine to tell.

  • Robin LaBolt

    I was “led” to this piece this morning. It spoke to me in ways I can’t even begin to express. I am a fledgling writer who has been held back by fear. Thank you for these words.

    • http://www.idelette.com idelette

      Thank you for sharing that Robin. I hope to hear more of your voice and expression. May Love cover those fears … and may you speak bravely.

  • http://www.crocuses.blogspot.com Jessi

    I realize I am a very latecomer to this post, but feel like it’s been a God-send to me this morning. I can barely even comment, because there’s a lump in my throat (that translates to my fingers), that I feel like it blocking all the emotions and words that are currently bottled up in my heart, and in my being. I know I am being called to Courage this year. Courage to write. Courage to speak. Courage to force myself to break through the fear, the shutdown, the overwhelming, not-knowing-how-to-form-or-get-out all that is within.

    I think it is in part, personal, and in part, the scheme from the enemy of our souls against women that has been self-sustaining for thousands of years. We are seeing breakthroughs of freedom at every turn, through countless women beginning to raise their voices in freedom’s song, and yet I believe there is still a vicious battle raging…almost intensifying in some ways.

    My mirror…my blogging sisters, like you, Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans…all blazing the way for where I want to go, beckoning me to join the movement…the growing throng of women…entrusted as deliverers of the Good News.

    While I’m somewhat still hiding…and wrestling…I have determined and declared that this year, this WILL change. I feel the fire in my bones burning and begging for release…if only I can navigate what that looks like…

  • http://blogbodia.wordpress.com Jessica

    I, too, am awed. It is a the divine moment in His presence and sitting with your words that both comforts and inspires me to engage with more bravery. We are designed for community. As an international, I daily find new words that are gems in relating my experiences. It grates to be rendered so rudimentary in my second language. But, I hope that this external quietness is teaching me internal editing that allows my authentic voice to be a contribution to the communities I am in.

    thank you for writing…for wrestling.

    • idelette

      Dear Jessica, I just left you a comment on your blog … I certainly get that “international” piece.

      I like how you say you are finding new words in your host country for your experiences and thoughts. It speaks to me of both embrace and expansion.

      I’d love to hear more of your story.

      With Love,
      xoxo

  • Julie Cochrane

    I guess every writer must feel what you’ve expressed so well here Idelette. A couple of things that are helping me at the moment to reconcile this inner battle are : (1) knowing that I am running the race God has set for me, personally – rather than being paralysed by fear generated by comparison to other writers. (2) I have joined a newly created Writers Guild at our church. I cannot tell you just how liberating this is for me! To be totally amongst kindred spirits is exhilarating! We ALL understand, we ALL get it, we ALL know the struggle, ALL appreciate the victories … it has become such a place of freedom. Once a month we have Open Mic Night where we get to read to the group pieces we’ve written – takes courage, but we all love each other’s efforts and cheer each other on! Iron sharpens iron…

  • http://www.heartofkadi.com/ Kadi @ heartofkadi

    Wow, I know I was divinely led here because I just tried to write about this… I struggle with going from in to out – with expressing my thoughts and ideas.. I thought that maybe I was the one, now I understand why I find myself reading this – it has so encouraged me. Thank you for sharing!

  • Gina Butz

    Love this! I knew I liked you when you quoted from Henri Nouwen. :) I thought I’d read all his books, but I just added that one to the list.

  • Carryl Robinson

    I’m sitting here, shaking for all I’m worth, trying so very hard not to cry (and failing miserably). There is so much here that I have desperately needed to hear for years. I’m a great one for keeping secrets and even better for hiding in plain sight. It’s one of the reasons I left my home church four years ago. I’m still “homeless” but I think I’m starting to heal. I’m starting to tell some of my secrets, oddly enough, within an on-line community of writers. Strange. But then would I expect anything “normal” from God? Hardly. Thank you for writing this.

    • http://www.idelette.com idelette

      Thank you for being here, Carryl! And thank you for speaking up. I actually re-read the post tonight–I need this constant reminder to express and not keep it Life inside.