“The voice of humility is God’s music, and the silence of humility is God’s rhetoric.” –Francis Quarles
Breakfast last Saturday morning was glorious. Curt cooked for Matthew, Jake, Collin, Elsa and me: bacon, sausage, trash omelets (Curt’s recipe) and buttermilk pancakes (Alton Brown’s recipe). We invited Rebecca too but she needed to get her beauty sleep. We started the planning for the new college week at SMBC for next summer. It’s scary and exciting to form something new. This is especially true if it’s something like a week of camp where others are going to invest their time and money in what you’ve formed.
It was sad that Lester couldn’t be at the meeting to add his thoughts. Curt says Lester is “our inside man with his fingers on the pulse of today’s college student.” Even so, we talked though many things: staff, campers, food, schedules, spiritual focus, and others. We made notes and shared ideas. We opened our minds and laid out our thoughts.
As humans, we’re so proud of our thoughts. We think through everything. We consider, ponder, muse, deliberate, contemplate, brood over, mull over, think about, think over, reflect on, take into account, bear in mind, regard, disregard, deem, judge, suppose, assume, presume, sense, reason, ruminate, cogitate, deduce and draw inferences until we think we have life and people completely figured out and categorized. Then we write it all down in books, in papers or on blogs. So you can see why, for someone like myself who is a lover of books, philosophy and language, that this is such an ironic thing to blog about. Ha!
We value our thinking so highly, even about God, that we make up labels and terms for people we agree and disagree with spiritually, doctrinally and theologically. We think so highly of our ability to perceive God and His plans for our lives that we begin to trust in our thoughts to predict His actions and reactions to situations, people and beliefs. We need to know and we need to think and we need to label. We have a need to trust in our own educations, intellects and thoughts. If not, what do we have? If not, we’d actually have to let go of trusting in our minds and trust in God.
I’m not suggesting God doesn’t want us to use our intellects or to make plans. I’m just reflecting on the fact that I see many people trusting in their learning and in their labels; trusting in their assumptions on God. This is just my warning to all of us that God will not be assumed on. He doesn’t label people the ways that we do. He doesn’t label categories of doctrines or theology the way we do. He hasn’t taken any higher education courses at our great universities. He hasn’t read the latest books. He doesn’t intend to fit into our presumptions and suppositions. He’s not trying to teach us to take comfort in His predictability or in our ability to define Him, His people or their thoughts.
God is trying to teach us to glory in the unknown; to praise him with our silence and stillness. I think God would rejoice for us to label less and love more. He’d love for our speech to contain less long, 5 syllable words trying to describe who He is or trying to categorize a follower of His and instead He’d sing over our merciful silence toward others and a stillness within ourselves.
Bob Slone once said in a Bible class that we react to people who ‘speak without thinking’ by telling them to ‘think before they speak.’ But Bob went on to point out that very seldom do people think and then decide not to speak. We like to think. We like to speak. I’d like to suggest we should do less of both and just learn to be. I’d like to learn to just exist in the moments that God places me in, without feeling the need to think big thoughts or share big terms and labels and categories. To just relate to people with compassion and presence.
I think that’s the key: presence. The key to our deliverance from ourselves and the key to our influence on others. Once we’ve learned the glorious lesson of presence, then we can add to it our thoughts and learnings. C.S. Lewis was feeling this same pressure when he wrote The Apologist’s Evening Prayer. He was feeling the pressure of needing to know all the answers, of being able to label and categorize, of being up on the latest in academic terms, texts, and trends and of having to read the latest books.
This is the prayer he wrote in response to the pressure. I’m going to make it my evening prayer and I hope you might consider making it yours.
The Apologist’s Evening Prayer
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-wore image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
Amen and Amen.