I took a couple weeks off due to some traveling, but I'm back now, back in the saddle. Before I took my little break I was working through some reflections on silence.
Today I want to combine my usual Monday "Longing For More" post with my continuing reflection on silence.
We find that when confronted with silence and openness and majesty and wonder and solitude, we are deeply moved, so touched by it that we don’t speak; it feels silly to do so. C.S. Lewis and Rudolf Otto refer to this sense or feeling as the numinous. Lewis also calls it Holiness.
When confronted with the numinous of open space, or vast beauty, we don’t move. I remember watching the sun rise over Bryce Canyon in southern Utah; the experience left breathless. I recall staring at the whale stars and listening to the mountain creeks in Durango and feeling like I was peeking in on something very secret. The numinous quality halted me, and I remained still.
God is like this, though we don’t take the time to see him as such. Too often we treat him as our pocket Savior, our own personal Jesus, or our political fail-safe or maybe even our get-out-of-jail-free card for a way of living we know isn’t on the up and up.
How often do you and I approach God from the standpoint of self-want and flippancy. Either we're living life so fast that we don't notice his numinous or Holy quality, or we simply ignore it. In Ecclesiastes the Teacher says:
Watch your step when you enter God’s house. Enter to learn. That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice, doing more harm than good.
Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.
I'm thinking today about the times I've "shot my mouth off" to God, and not in a good way either. I'm thinking today about Christian leadership in the greater culture and the posture of "shooting our mouths off," adding to the noise of a culture of pride and dissonance.
“If you have only come the length of asking God for things,” writes theologian Oswald Chambers, “you have never come to the first strand of abandonment, you have become a Christian from a standpoint of your own.”
We cannot approach God as though he were a cosmic superstore. We must be willing to hold the relational position of self-abandonment.
Today, let's enter our lives and vocations and wanderings ready to listen, ready to learn, ready to worship from a standpoint of Holy Deferment--closing our mouths so we can gain the change of understanding how deep and how wide is the glory of God.
A BRILLIANT EXPOSE OF WHAT REALLY MATTERS IN LIFE, JUST WHEN IT SEEMED WE WERE ABOUT TO FORGET.
-GABY LYONS, FOUND OF Q, AUTHOR OF THE NEXT CHRISTIANS
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.