Not many people came to the Taize service, but those who did got the rare treat of sitting quietly, the rushing world having stopped for a while. Candles, simple music, simple scripture, an old, old prayer, and then silence. During the spot labeled “long silence” in the program, I’d hoped to go as long as ten minutes, but nope…silence has a force that is easy to cave in to. I’ve spent a lot of time in silence over the past decade, and yet with people in the same room, I could only last four minutes before moving on to the next thing. Next time, we’re going ten minutes if it kills me.
Still, the quiet was pervasive. Sounds of cars going by and the occasional unwelcome popping sound of the sound system. No cell phone went off, though, and there was perhaps two coughs during the whole hour. I heard that there were a couple of moments when people entered the lobby, heard the quiet and assumed no one was here, and turned around and left. (We need to station someone in the lobby to direct people.) It was a time of thought and meditation. I reflected on lots of things: the war, the nation and its sins, what leadership requires, what God is wanting to do among the people at Northwest, the sheer joy of praising Him laced with the joy of music, the nearness of the God who holds the universe in His hand, and on and on the thoughts came.
On Sunday, we talked of emptying our vessels in order to be filled. Quiet is like that. To encounter silence is to enter into a battle as the cares and tensions of our particular stress rises up to take center stage. It takes time to let them have their due and then tell them to sit down or talk a walk. As the hour progresses, finally a calm can enter and new thoughts, new images, new feelings, new “emptinesses” arrive. God sometimes pours in, but most of the time its more like seeping. It takes the attention artists bring to the making of intricate lines, or the attention we pay when a loved one announces a piece of news that changes our whole life. Attention must be paid, and the reward is the deep comfort of a near and present God.
If you missed Taize, no big deal. We’ll do it again. But if you miss quiet altogether, that’s another story.
Sitting alone, paying attention…