Silence


by: Shirley VanDamme


I am a gay woman of faith who is feeling loneliness and longing in the midst of a silent time.

Even in my loneliness and longing for the Spirit of Love and Life, I know I am not alone.

Jesus felt this loneliness when kneeling in the garden and praying, "If it is possible, let this cup pass by me, yet not my will be done, but YOURS."

Naomi felt a sense of loss when her husband and sons died and she had to return to Bethlehem. "Yahweh has given witness against me and Shaddai has afflicted me." (Ruth 1:21)

Sarah, from the book of Tobit (3:7) must have felt a longing for her place in the world as she married seven men and each of them died before the wedding night. She even thought of killing herself.

After Judith's husband died, she stayed inside her home for 3 years and 4 months. (Judith 8:4) I imagine she was feeling lonely and longing for love.

I long to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life again.

I long to see the direction of where the Creator of life and death is leading me.

I long to feel the closeness, the presence, of Holy Love, the blessed assurance of knowing that I am unconditionally filled with grace.

Instead I hear the silence of the Holy One. I see no direction, I feel no presence, no love.

How have I gotten to this point? Is it something I have done wrong? Have I sinned so badly? Is this silence of the Universe lasting so long because I denied the prompting of the Holy Spirit within me for so long? I recognize a similarity in my attitude and an attitude present in the Bible. Centuries ago (and sometimes today), when someone was sick, like Job, it was seen as a punishment from Yahweh. So the people who were sick or had leprosy while Jesus walked the earth were seen as sinners and were untouchable. Jesus had a different message. When asked why the man was born blind, if it was his own sin or the sin of his parents, the reply was that it was neither. The person was born blind to show the greatness and glory of the Creator.

I do not know "THE" answer. Some days when the silence is sad, I don't even remember the question. Silence is difficult in our society today. We are surrounded by noise. There is always something to do or to say. The stillness of silence can seem unbearable. Yet our brother, Jesus, challenges us to accept both the silence and the messages of the Holy One.

After Jesus prayed in the garden, he was killed, but he rose from the dead. Naomi and Ruth started a new life. Sarah married Tobias and lived happily every after. Judith came out of her solitude and told the elders they needed to stop testing the Creator of Waters and start accepting that they were the ones being tested. Then she led her people to victory against enormous odds. This victory, this new life, this resurrection only came after times of silence.

We are a diverse people and the Spirit speaks to us in diverse ways. Silence has been my teacher in the past. She has taught me to listen for the Spirit of Life in a new way, to use a new language. And just like the people who have gone before me, when I have experienced silence in the past, it has been followed by a wonderful blessing.

The silence of God/dess is a mystery to me. When I frame my experience with those of holy people who have gone before me, like Sarah, Naomi, Judith and Jesus, I connect my life with the past and I take strength in knowing that I am not alone.

When I have the opportunity to share my journey by writing or talking, the mystery is no longer just a black and white, right or wrong approach. When I share truthfully, all the colors of the rainbow get involved. And more than just seeing the new colors, I actually feel like I am part of the rainbow.

When I connect and take strength from the past, when I speak my truth and am present in the moment, I find that I cannot deny my hope for the future. The silence is not quite so lonely and the longing seems to be less of a curse and more of a blessing. It reminds me of the Christmas cactus. All year long, it is silent. But when Christmas is coming, if it has been cared for during the year, it will burst forth with buds and blossoms. May the Holy One make it so for all of us!

Copyright © 2000 by the author
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Books:

Listening for God: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt

Renita J. Weems

The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha

Raimundo Panikkar
Robert R. Barr (Translator)


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Also In This Issue:

Journey of Faith,
Journey of Acceptance

A Letter to the Congregation






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