~ Paulette Jackson
This concerto of sight
The soothing symmetry of shadows
The rhythm of reminding light
That sing to the soul
With hymns known by heart
Surrounded and serenaded
by the Quiet White
The weather in the South is a bit snowy today. The meandering flakes float and drift, as if swaying to music played by a chamber ensemble. To watch them, is the vision of a silent lullaby, where one might quickly find themselves, slowly carried away to dreamland.
In today's culture, we could probably observe with relative accuracy, a cultural dependence on the need for impressionable volume for our ears, in order to maintain a predictable cadence to the rhythm of our day. Without this dependable volume, many experience themselves as inattentive and directionless.
But what if we were to befriend the quiet, the stillness, the silence? Initially, it could be scary. To some it could be boring. But in befriending the quiet, we might also become aware of our life in a way we never have previously noticed. And maybe, we might even hear the still, small voice of the Holy, the same One that has been quietly speaking for sometime, but we failed to recognize because of the noise.
Below is an adapted article offering spiritual perspective on silence, by John Valters Paintner; educator and spiritual director, along with his wife Christine Valters Paintner. I hope you find it meaningful.
"Most of the individuals we think of as "the prophets," that is, those with books of the Bible named after them, were actually just the spokesmen of a larger prophetic movement. They were the frontmen, if you would, of a group or school of people with a similar goal or message.
The prophet Elijah is the rare exception to this. He was a lone prophet. Elijah did not start off as a member of a group of prophets whose focus was preaching against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Individually, each of these rulers were considered horrible. Apparently caring nothing for God, they routinely abused their power over the Israelites, egging each other on to inflict cruelty. So, when Elijah and his brethren preached against Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen took it as a personal affront for which they would seek revenge.
Elijah ran away to hide for a time, but eventually returned in a big way. In I Kings 18 we find Elijah challenged the four hundred and fifty priests of Ba'al to a duel, of sorts. Tired of the wavering back and forth between God (YHWH; Jehovah, "He brings the hosts into existence.") and false idols of Jezebel, Elijah hoped to publicly and dramatically remind the Israelites, who it was they were to follow.
Elijah and the priests of Ba'al both built wooden altars to their respective deities and prayed for the altar to be set alight through divine action. Elijah allowed the priests of Ba'al to go first. Seeing no results of their altar being set alight, Elijah taunted the priests of Ba'al, going so far as to suggest that Ba'al might be taking a nap.
When it came to Elijah's turn, he doused his altar with water to make things more difficult. And Elijah's prayer to God was answered - the altar burned brightly. And seeing the power of the Holy, the people recommitted themselves to God. But when Queen Jezebel found out her priests were defeated, she was filled with anger, and Elijah was forced to flee into the wilderness in order to save his life.
In the desert, Elijah became exhausted to the point of collapse. On the brink of death, an angel intervened with food and drink, providing the encouragement to continue on. Reaching a cave in Mount Horeb, Elijah heard the voice of God asking why he was there. Elijah responded to God with everything that had happened to him and all that he had done. Afterward, he was told by God to wait outside for God to pass.
While he was waiting, a mighty wind went sweeping across the mountain, crushing rocks. But it was not God. Then there was an earthquake that struck the mountain, but neither was it God. He wasn't even in the fire that raged across the mountain. But when it was all over, after the mighty wind, the crushing earthquake and the raging fire, the only thing Elijah heard was a tiny whispering sound. And it was in this tiny whispering sound that Elijah felt the presence of God and hid his face in his hands.
How human of Elijah to go from victory to defeat so quickly. One moment he is celebrating victory and the next moment he is running for his life to "get away from it all".
In modern society, "getting away from it all" is often a metaphor. For Elijah, it was literal. The pressure of being pursued and persecuted repeatedly, found Elijah, relieved for God's intervention one moment, then confused and depressed, even praying for death in the next. We can understand his need and desire to "get away from in all" to nature for comfort and aid.
Elijah's experience in nature is a gift of revelation of God, as both immanent and transcendent. What we are given to understand, accept and remember from our history, is not only how often God reveals Himself, but the way He reveals Himself, particularly in nature and the wilderness. "Acts of God" like clouds of dust as guides, burning bushes that talk, angels appearing with personal messages, animals speaking, unusually bright stars and waters parting, are well-known associations with God's revealed intervention. So it makes sense that Elijah would not be surprised to see God in gale force winds, earthquakes, or raging fires. In this case, however, we see God's presence was revealed, quite differently and personally. It was the tiny whispering of the quiet - the still and the small, where this exhausted prophet found himself, in the presence of the Holy - by personal invitation."
It is snowing outside today. It is very cold. I wonder if sitting in front of a window, or outside in chair, watching the snow flakes fall, might be our own place to "get away from it all", and in the still and the small and the quiet white of a snowy day, experience the presence of the Holy - by personal invitation.
Reference: The Soul's Slow Ripening by Christine Valter's Paintner
The thoughts and intentions expressed in The Conversant Counselor's Blog are those belonging to Paulette Jackson LPC-MHSP and do not necessarily reflect those of any other professional or individual.