Silence: Listening to Others
As the season of Lent began this past year, my church gave each person a small card with a blunt, squared masonry nail woven through a piece of heavy lavender card stock. Above the nail is written a simple prayer, part of which follows: “May this Lenten nail remind me . . . of the season of Lent began this past year, my church gave each person a small card with a blunt, squared masonry nail woven through a piece of heavy lavender card stock. Above the nail is written a simple prayer, part of which follows: “May this Lenten nail remind me . . . of the hidden sufferings of the people I meet day to day. Help me to reach out to them with love, just as you reached out to me from the cross.” The card still hangs on my refrigerator even though Lent concluded months ago. It continues to remind me of people’s hidden pain, as was intended. It reminds me to refrain from judgment. It reminds me to be silent.
Good works gain nothing for us without love (1 Corinthians 13:3). And faith working itself out through love is most difficult behind the closed doors of our homes. I have many children. They are loud, demanding, adorable, and funny. The oldest talks a blue streak. And I—Lord, have mercy—I am impatient. I have things to do. She sees me. I loom large in her world, taking up page after page of her story. She calls out to me. But I neither see nor hear her. I am too loud. I turn away from charity, from love, and become to her a patron of emptiness and loneliness. Too often I wave her away and wound her.
The discipline of silence teaches me to abrogate my needs for the sake of others. It calls me to become quiet and still and listen to my daughter’s needs, and love her by giving her what is so precious to me. Me.
Silence teaches us to listen in order to celebrate joys and to be a balm for hurts. We need hearing. We need communion and community. And communion can only be found when someone sets aside him- or herself to hear another’s heart. We are loved. That need is continually met in Christ, poured out from his side. Draw from that great Source and love your wife or your husband, your children, family, in-laws, co-workers and all people. All need the love of Christ.
And you are him today. In silence, listen.
As for me, I must go and sit with my daughter. I must play with and listen to her. I must hear all her questions and not yawn at or mock her interests. I must imitate God and become little, like a child. I must be silent enough to listen intently, until my eyes are filled up with her. I have deadlines. I have goals and dreams. Nevertheless, spending time with my child is more urgent. She is greater than any goal and larger than every dream. If I do nothing more in my life than love her well, my life will be well lived.
A little nail reminds me of the world’s hurt and pain, and it reminds me of what God has done and is doing for the world. I must be like him and, in silence, die—O bright Sister Death!—that others might live. This is love.