Hearing God in the Silence

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Heather Trapp -Hearing God in Silence3by Heather Trapp | instagram: real.life.devotions.by.heather

One day, everything was great.
The next day, the bottom fell out.

My well-strategized pastoral career plan hit a wall.  I called my husband, who truly felt bad but had no idea what to say. Then I called my best friend, who graciously listened to me rant. Finally I called my spiritual director.

The third call was a little weird. He had been my spiritual director for four years, but the truth was, I hadn’t seen him in a while. He knows me well, and I knew he totally loved me, warts and all. His suggestions and questions always seemed to hit the mark.

He welcomed me into his office as if we had talked just the day before. I spent several minutes downloading everything that happened.

I feel like my career is over.
What had happened?
Everything lined up.
I checked all the boxes.
It should have been fine.

He graciously listened. Paused. Then asked one question that pinned me back into the comfy, leather chair.

“How’s your spiritual life been?”

Truth was, I had no idea how God and I really were. But I couldn’t say that. This was my spiritual director, for goodness’ sake. How would that look?

“Good! I’m reading FIVE devotions every morning,” I told him. “I am reading the Bible in Greek, and I am translating it. So, that’s good to do.”

Truth was, I WAS doing all of that. The problem was it seemed the more I did, the more I felt disconnected from myself, and from God. He leaned back in his chair, folded his hands in his lap and smiled.

I knew that smile well. I steeled myself.

“Well, perhaps, reading one devotional is enough, hmm? How about spending the rest of that time in silence?”

I’m sure my face spoke volumes. Inside my head, I began to justify why sitting in silence was a bad idea. I like to achieve things. That is my comfort zone. Sitting in silence seemed terribly inefficient.

He smiled encouragingly. “Heather, you are a human BE-ing, not a human DO-ing. Maybe silence and doing less will help?”

The wheels were coming off of my life, and the best advice he had was do nothing and shut up? I nodded and smiled weakly. I was not convinced and I’m pretty sure he knew that.

“Heather, just give it a try. Start small, ok? Just a few minutes each day.”

I left his office, bewildered and uncertain. I promised I would try.

I went at silence like I go at everything: full on. Let’s do this.

Every morning, I “did” silence. Like it was an exercise class or something. I started with five minutes, and determined to get to 30 minutes. I set a timer on my phone to signal my release from this crazy, quiet taskmaster.

Silence felt oppressive.

The more I “did” silence, the more I wanted it to be over. I wanted God to fix the situation. I wanted to tell God what I thought. I wanted to blame someone, point fingers, and defend myself.

Silence challenges the ego.  There’s no justifying, defending, or distracting allowed. It gets in your business, prying into old drawers and hidden nooks and crannies. I was seeing myself in full color. It wasn’t pretty. I got scared. I got mad. I got sad. I wanted to push past the pain and get to the peace part. The more I pushed, the more it hurt.

Silence was winning. I barely got to five minutes each day. I was wrung out; silence was … well, silent. Then, one day, I just quit. The pain had become unbearable. I realized I could no more “do” silence than stop my own heartbeat.

Deep-seated vulnerabilities and fears surfaced. I felt raw and naked. From the deepest part of my soul, I prayed, “Please God, help. I can’t do this alone.”

The answer came swiftly. God’s presence was as real as the oxygen I breathed. God had been there the whole time, patiently waiting, loving me and longing for me to let go. I literally had to break through my need to “do,” “to achieve”, “to prove myself worthy,” “to be good enough.”

The love of God, in the silence, freed me.

Today, my practice of silence remains. Sometimes I forget about silence.  Life gets crazy busy and crazy hard. I lose myself and and I fall into old patterns. I call for help and God welcomes me in like we just hung out yesterday.

God smiles. Oh, I know that smile well.

“Silence maybe?”

______________

Heather TrappHeather Trapp is a blogger, writer, pastor, friend, wife to a great guy and mama to two teenagers. She is passionate about teaching and writing about living real life with real faith.

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