One thing that’s new for me is that I am taking two classes from the Memphis School of Servant Leadership this semester. One is called “Finding God in the Music of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” and the other is “Fear, Courage, and Faithfulness.” Both involve some deep reflection and soul-searching, as well as working on the disciplines of faith – prayer, silence, Bible study, Sabbath, stewardship, relationship – which I admit I struggle with during this season of my life. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve always struggled with consistency in my daily faith disciplines. Maybe someday it won’t be such a struggle. Until then, I pray for God’s grace and understanding as I do, at least, keep trying.
Among those disciplines, silence might be the hardest. Unless I either have the apartment to myself or everyone else is asleep (and not snoring or having night terrors), there simply will not be silence in my home. Even now, when I am the only one here, I cannot help but notice the sounds of my upstairs neighbors walking around, vacuuming, and running their washing machine. And aside from these external noises, it seems there are always clangings and bangings going on inside my own mind.
My classes and classmates are helping me learn that the faith practice of silence does not mean eliminating these noises. Rather, it involves moving past them to a place deep within where we don’t even notice them.
|image source: Brock & Co.|
Mary’s life was undoubtedly noisy, but in this painting she has found that deep place beyond noise. Although her face betrays no particular emotion, she looks completely content. Her cloak begins to melt into her surroundings, as if she is becoming one with something beyond the physical world. She doesn’t need to speak; I don’t think she even needs God to speak. She is simply being – being in the presence of God that is being with her.
As I head into a time of silence today – or at least trying – this image of Mary is going with me. I’m imagining my edges blurring and fading until there’s no discernible difference between my being and the presence of God that is with me. I may not get to that place where I don’t hear the vacuum and the washing machine, but I thank Mr. Tanner – and the “Ashe to Amen” exhibit – for helping me get a little closer.