Thursday, October 12, 2006

Be still...

“There is a stage in the spiritual life in which we find God in ourselves – this presence is a created effect of His love. It is a gift of His, to us. It remains in us. All the gifts of God are good. But if we rest in them, rather than in Him, they lose their goodness for us. So with this gift also.”

From Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1986, p54.

I think I'm gradually coming to realise the truth of this... it's so very easy to come to rely on our own memories and reflections, to "rest in" our own perceptions of God, and so to cease to be open to his voice.

When Elijah went out and stood on the mountain before the Lord (1 Kings 19:11ff) there was wind and there was earthquake and there was fire, but the Lord was not in those unmissable things. I love the NRSV translation of what happened next: "...and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave."

When God is silent, it doesn't mean he is absent, or that he's displeased with us, or doesn't love us any more. It may mean he's drawing very close to us, to speak to us "face to face, as a man speaks to a friend" (Exodus 33:11) - or at least to whisper in our ear.

But we are always so tempted to fill the silence with something, anything - but especially with our memories of what God did, said, seemed to be, or else what we have read of what he
did, said, or seemed to be to someone else. And we miss who he is, now. He is always now. "I AM," he says (Exodus 3:14) and the only time to meet him is this present instant. "Be still," he says, "and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46)

Oh, God, only help me to be still!

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