Perfection...that's the only word which adequately describes the weather today here in my part of Carolina. After weeks of hot, often-muggy, summertime swelter, today is breathtakingly gorgeous. I don't know what the temperature is in the greater community, but here, in my yard, under the canopy of tall, old trees, the thermometer outside the back window reads 85 degrees, with the humidity comfortably low and a gentle breeze occasionally ruffling the leaves of shrubbery surrounding the screened porch. As I said, perfection.
The neighborhood is basking in a quiet Sunday afternoon, with
only the occasional voices of kids returning from an afternoon at the nearby community pool to break the sabbath silence. And I have been reading and watching and listening to the silent sounds- not so oxymoronic, really, because that's when I can most clearly "hear" the voice of God speaking through my thoughts, my mind, my heart, my daydreams. The Holy One comes to me most fully when I take the time to listen, really listen...to be still and silent long enough for the "voice" to resonate, to speak, to sing with answers to my unspoken questions, to my deepest concerns.
I have come to love and cherish the silence, though this was not always so. But faced with vocal cord surgery in 1982, and with a lengthy period of enforced silence, I learned to appreciate the opportunities which it affords and to actually crave times of soundlessness. Perhaps I can best share with you the lessons learned by sharing the "Made for Living" column I wrote in January of that year.
Voiceless (January 1982)
One of my favorite passages of scripture, “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10) has taken on new meaning during the past week. After an autumn of ever-increasing hoarseness, bouts of laryngitis, and decreased vocal use, I sought the opinion of specialists in the field and learned, much to my dismay, that surgery involving my vocal cords was a necessity. And I must confess that, even more than the prospect of surgery, I dreaded the enforced period of vocal rest which would follow.
My major means of communication over the years has been verbal, and this has been primarily vocal- very vocal- in nature. The one word which perhaps best described my nature is “loquacious”; I have always simply loved to talk, to engage in conversation, to express my thoughts and feelings using my voice and facial expressions and hands in synchrony. With maturity came the ability, the strongly-cultivated ability, to be a good listener. And the use of the written word to communicate, begun with a vengeance during my teenage years, slipped into a distant second place as my work and my life-style demanded continual vocal communication with the people around me. Indeed, the most challenging and difficult part of my inner life, my relationship with my God, was turning my
thoughts totally toward the silent world of listening- for direction, for wisdom. Prayer for others was easy; I could put my petitions into the right words, express them in a way which clarified them for me, but when it came to listening for that "still, small voice”, my patience was usually tested to a point beyond which I was ready or willing to tolerate
For some short periods of my life, I have lived in the country- not Coral Springs-type country, but Pennsylvania country with rolling hills, bubbling brooks, tall, thick forests, countess birds and forest creatures and insects, each with its own voice and sound. During those times, I did listen as I walked and tried to meld myself into the world around me. The peace I felt at those times was overwhelming; but always life circumstances made those periods very short-lived, and once again I would find myself thrust into the helter-skelter world of voice and words and noise in which we live, unable to recapture the wonderful, restful peace I had found, uncertain of how to go about it, knowing only that the experience had been wonderfully fulfilling, that God had seems very near and very real, a true
friend who walked with me and talked with me.
And so, when I was given the word that surgery would be essential, when the doctor gave his instructions that my voice would have to be rested, totally rested for a period of time, I began hearing an inner voice comforting me, letting me know that it would be all right. I approached the surgery without fear, but with a sense of curiosity and wonder- could I really go without speaking? When my voice did return, how would it sound? And how long would this take? The questions swirled in my head, but beneath and above and around it all, amidst all the doubt and trepidation, was the firm assurance that all would be well, that whatever the time frame, whatever would occur, the strength I needed would be given in full measure.
The morning of surgery carried with it the knowledge that my friends and church family were praying and my last recollection before succumbing to the anesthesia was the joy of knowing that all those people were caring about me and that the arms of the Holy One were firmly around me. The days since have brought showers of blessings in the way of cards and hugs and phone calls (answered by my family), as well as gifts of time and food and even little signs for me to use to communicate with others, created by a thoughtful friend.
And the silence? It is creating in me a new awareness, a real appreciation for whatever is around me. I am not only hearing more, I am seeing more, experiencinomg mor. Yes, it is difficult not to respond verbally to a cheery “good morning” or to a "Hi, Mom, I’m home!”, but I find myself smiling more often, touching, holding, hugging. And I really am listening- with joy and gratitude and awe. As in all that has gone before, God has something special for me to learn from this life experience and I intend to be listening loudly enough to hear just what it is.
So I'm sitting here on a sunny Sunday afternoon in 2012, relishing every moment of the blessed silence...listening, listening, lest I miss the words of peace and contentment which are singing in my heart, and wishing you- wherever you are- an afternoon of blissful peace and quiet. Love, Linda