As the coach crossed the Tamar, I have to confess to being excited for what lay in store. A week of silence, a week of calm following what had been a frantic few weeks filled with lots of doing things and worrying about things and wrestling with a deluge of demands on my time and energy and self. Seeing Sclerder Abbey suddenly appear in the dark was a welcome sight; I had the childlike urge to run up to the building and hug its stone but thought better of it.
One final chance to talk, to share, to be the noisy and vibrant Community we are and in a moment, my tongue was tied. Fear gripped me. It was like being plunged into icy water, a bony hand holding me under. My last moments of free-talking were spent gagged. All the nerves and anxieties of what the week may hold came flooding back. If this was supposed to be about encountering the stream of living water then I was about to sink.
And at the name of Jesus, as those words of worship rose forth in the now familiar chapel, the hand lost its grip and into the silence, the proper silence, the holy silence of divine encounter, the final words ‘speak, Lord, for your servant is listening…’
In silence, the darkness is no longer so dark; the fire glows, the navy sky is warmer than black.
In silence, there is simplicity and joy to be found within it. Tasks like washing walls and peeling apples are not mundane but profound, consequential. Silence does not dismantle hierarchies, but it does demand equality.
In silence, you are rooted in the present. The bell rings through the old building, calling you to what is next, not what is in the days, months, years to come. So you notice things, the everyday things; you become aware that each day, this day, is a gift.
In silence, the chains of self-dependence are broken. You can’t journey this alone, you need others.
In silence, you can’t use other people. Yes, you need people, but you can’t use them; you can’t use them to find your validation, you can’t use them to derive your self-worth.
In silence, you reach a new depth of intimacy with those around you and it’s unity, and it tastes do deliciously sweet!
(In silence, you can’t do much when someone puts salt in the chocolate sauce rather than sugar… Decidedly not sweet!)
In silence, God is loud. He’s hard to ignore. He’s confrontational, but never aggressive. He’s persistent, but never degrading.
In silence, you get permission to plunder the riches to be found in the mystery of God.
In silence, you discover you are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means, to save my soul.
In silence, you learn you are created; created, a creation, God’s creation and His works are wondrous – I know that full well – and I am one! I am a work of His hand, His design, His gifts, woven into my history which I surrender back to Him so they become His story.
In silence, you realise you are created to praise and it’s liberating. In the Lord, I’ll be ever thankful, in the Lord I will rejoice; bless the Lord my soul; alleluia, alleluia, amen amen, alleluia!
In silence, you understand you are created to reverence and your soul cannot hold back on proclaiming sanctus sanctus sanctus deus sabaoth because God is holy and He is King and Lord.
In silence, you recognise you are created to serve and there you are, folding laundry in a drafty outhouse, silent, in the presence of God, and standing on holy ground.
In silence, God is faithful and good and kind.
In silence, God’s love is infinite and gratuitous and overwhelming and never-ending and reckless – and for me.
In silence, God peels away scar tissue toxic to the body and fills wounds with living water and makes them His dwelling place.
In silence, God is everything He has said He is.
In silence, I am, with God’s help, everything He has declared I am.
In silence, I received gifts so generous, so numerous, to treasure.
In silence, I tasted, I savoured, I saw, and I heard. Because God is good. He is who He says He is. And He loves me.
And He loves you.