Wednesday, January 4, 2012

white porcelain silence

The volume of my house could drive Tibetan monks to drunkenness especially when all the kids are out of school for Christmas break.  I feel very Grinch-like at times with all the noise, noise, noise!  But the other night at dinner, as our kids settled into their seats, we held hands, closed our eyes to give thanks and then just sat there without saying anything.

If your house is like my house, you move at 100 mph from the minute your kids wake up until about the third time you've told them to go to sleep.  My best moments of solace are found when I'm sitting on the toilet... although there's always the chance one of my kids will fight through that awkward scene in need of some attention.  Each night before we send them to bed, we attempt to read something together, but we inevitably have to send half of them somewhere else due to the shortened attention spans of six children under the age of 9.

On this particular night, my family didn't need another prayer asking God to bless our meal and help us be mindful of others.  We just needed silence... we could hardly manage it though.  My 5 year old son looked at me and said, "Dad, say something."  My wife looked at me and said, "Are you going to pray?"  I had them sit there as long as we could holding hands without a sound until my wife said, "Amen." and we began eating.

We tend to find comfort in noise.  We need something to fill the air in the event that our thoughts get too loud.  The busyness of life keeps us moving and feeling productive.  If it's too quiet we turn on some music.  When we don't like what we hear we turn on the television.  Our kids reflect this.  Any TV show that doesn't change scenes every 5 seconds is boring to them.  They don't know how to play outside without begging for a break from mother nature to return to video gaming.

On a different night, I was explaining the importance of the Sabbath to our 8 & 9 year old daughters from a story in the Bible where Jesus healed a man.  They told me they remembered the Sabbath because it's the day I lay on the couch and tell them we're not doing anything or else God will smite us.  (It's true.)

I once asked a group of students what they think about when they're all alone with nothing to do sitting in the dark.  Many of them said they could not remember the last time they were in that situation...and if they did they immediately turned a light on, put on some headphones and avoided the void.  Some, however, responded profoundly about their thoughts about God, their own existence, their relationships and so we went on to discuss the significance of the two-way conversation between Creator and Created known as prayer.

I hope my kids will learn that God is not a vending machine filled with treats where if you give the right amount or push the right buttons this cold, oversized box delivers what you want.  Instead, I hope they will learn to listen, be patient, and wonder.  I hope they can have deep and meaningful conversations with their friends and future spouse.  I hope they will find their value not by what they do but by the integrity of their character.  I hope all these hopes were instilled in them in 15 seconds of silence before dinner one night... but they weren't.

Silence and solace aren't things we just wake up and choose to do for a few minutes... they're a discipline we practice.  Sabbath was meant to be a weekly occurrence not so we could be unproductive but so we could remember and reflect.  My family will probably never sit around in a circle, sing kum-bye-ya and pretend that we're then at peace with the world or anything.  But, we will be intentional about embracing a silence that requires us to slow down, remember where we've been and know that God alone is God.

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