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Lessons in silence - part 2

Lessons in silence - part 2

Lessons in silence - part 2

16 July 2017

Photo: Ben White on Unsplash

By Major Dean Clarke

I was born back in the day when the nurses took babies to sleep in the nursery to help the new mothers recover from the birthing experience.

It is said that my mother always knew when I woke up. Actually, the whole ward could tell because I had such a loud cry.
 At the moment I have very little voice because of vocal-cord surgery. So instead of others hearing me, all I can do is listen to others. For an introvert that might sounds like heaven, but for a talker …

How often do we really stop to listen to what others are saying? This is more than when we pause talking and listen for the next cue or break in their speaking for us to get started again. When was the last time you simply listened and considered without looking to counter-comment back? Listened to learn; to understand their point of view; focused upon hearing them clearly and then considering what they have said. This is one of the skills I try and help engaged couples learn before marriage. Listening to engage with not only what the person is saying, but also the feelings that go with it – hearing for the heart behind the words.

Not being allowed to speak has forced me into silence, and silence means more listening. I can still communicate. I use an app on my smart phone. I type in what I want to say, press “speak”, and it does. But by the time I’ve typed and am ready to share, the conversation has moved on and my witty comment has failed to be enjoyed by anyone but me. And on reflection, most times it is not worth bringing the conversation back to hear it. So, I speak less, listen more and see things I hadn’t taken notice of previously.

On the Sunday after my first operation we opened worship with the song, Your Grace is Enough. Words include, “you lead us in the song of your salvation and all your people sing along. Your grace is enough …”, and I stood mute. While the band played I followed the words, “Lord, with my all I part, closer to thee I’ll cling”.
 
After enrolling four junior soldiers, our songsters led the congregational singing, “When you feel weakest, dangers surround, subtle temptations, troubles abound, nothing seems hopeful, nothing seems glad, all is despairing, everything sad. Keep on believing, Jesus is near; Keep on believing, there’s nothing to fear; Keep on believing, this is the way; Faith in the night as well as the day”.

A few weeks later and I am still on restricted speaking. No long conversations, lots of vocal rest and still no singing. In the middle of the meeting our worship group leads the congregation in song with the words, “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again … Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul. Worship His holy name. Sing like never before O my soul, I’ll worship your holy name”.

As the congregation sings these and other songs around me, I have stood in silence. Listening and considering. The people sing along … but I can’t. At present I can’t do my normal work. I can’t preach. Can’t lead worship. Can’t have pastoral conversations. Can’t train in discipleship. I can’t do my job properly. Keep on believing? What use is faith without works? What value do I bring if I cannot fulfil my duties? It’s time to sing your song again … sing like never before, that is what I am afraid of. Will I?

As I’ve worshipped each week I have worshipped in silence. Challenged by the words being sung around me as I’ve really listened and reflected upon what we say and offer to God in our songs. I have had many moments of questions, raised by the claims or statements in our songs, but something else has happened also. Something more profound and more impactful.

I may be worshipping without words, but everything within me wants to praise my Lord. As God’s people raise their voices, the cornets sound and the guitars strum, my heart lifts. Within me, my spirit longs to give praise. And rather than be frustrated by what I cannot do, I learn to praise as I can.

Not all praise comes out aloud. Immerse yourself in the moment and be carried into God’s presence on the praise of those around you, then bow humbly before the Lord and pray. I have taken the words being sung and prayed them. Wrestled with God over them. Declared his goodness and that he knows and wants what is best for me.

So I don’t worship with words at present. But I pray, clap, and raise my hands in affirmation of “Jesus, my redeemer” because “In Christ alone my hope is found … for I am his and he is mine bought with the precious blood of Christ”.

Read Lessons in silence - part 1 and part 3.

Major Dean Clarke is the Corps Officer at Brisbane City Temple.

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