I am a bookaholic. I admit it, freely. I love reading. I think that having poor eyesight is one of life’s most horrible accidents for me. When I went to my last evaluation, the eye doctor told me that eyesight gets better as you age, because your near-sightedness catches up with the far-sightedness and it makes it more even. (Ha-Ha! My “even” is still legally blind without my glasses!!) And that I will loose my eyesight more slowly as I age. (But I am still loosing). He then told me how bad my vision had become and I was so depressed. I went out and ordered purple glasses…just for the heck of it. And purple sunglasses. In purple cases! And when I got my Kindle, I got a purple cover. For the heck of it. I read every day, at least once a day, a real book. It may be an e-book, but it’s a book. We all read a lot all day long and don’t realize it. We read news, texts, Facebook posts, the captions on TV, signs, directions (well, some of us more than others), and even recipes! Reading is what we do the most, without even realizing it. We also reach out with our touch, smell, and sound senses. For those who are born without their senses, I am so very sad. To miss out on this is something I could never imagine. And even though I have very poor eyesight, I am still blessed with sight.
Quite often, I realize I have not listened to anything via media all day. Nothing has been turned on except my Kindle. My son and I chatter while he does schoolwork, but no other noises disturb us. And I love that I can read while he does school; he’s reading while he’s doing school, and we have relative silence. “Silence is Golden.” I never understood that as a kid. But as I age and realize how short life truly is, I appreciate silence so very much. I had a wonderful conversation with my great-grandmother one time. She related to me how different the world was when she was a child. She had immigrated to the USA and she and my great-grandpa spent their years working diligently, building a life here. And they worked hard. There is a scene in one of the Iron Man movies where he ends up sitting in a donut sign in LA, after a drunken night out. (It’s a huge donut and you can see it from the freeway). Once upon a time, my great-grandparents owned that donut shop and lived a couple of blocks away, right off the freeway in LA. And she related to me how she missed the quiet years as a nanny on an estate in England. There were no telephones, no TV’s, and very few radios. She said you heard the breeze in the trees and the neighing of the horses, and lowing of the cattle. Occasionally you would hear the bridles and reins of a sleigh or carriage rolling by. You could sit in the house and read, with only the crackling of the fire as background. What a glorious age it was then. I wish I could have experienced that time. And I often do, in my books! Another reason I love reading!
Silence is sort of why I am typing this. During Great Lent, silence can be a wealth of blessings to our prayer life. Silence can feed us. God can approach us and we can listen for His small steps in our lives. We get so caught up in the latest song to “drop” or the latest TV show/movie to come out. I wrote recently about a movie we had gone to see and how we felt so drained afterwards (and how regretful I was we bought the movie). I realized that a lot of that was because we were drowning in sound. Sound saturates your whole body and you are exhausted from it. It seems like surround-sound and special effects are so much a part of movies these days, your ears will actually ache when you get into your quiet car, after visiting a theater. And then there are ear phones, earbuds, or whatever they choose to wear. My youngest son (aged 16) is almost 24/7 with earbuds or earphones on, plugged into my old iPod. I have convinced him to keep it out and off his ears for awhile, so we can communicate during the day. We are working on silence as a family. I love Lent.
Silence enables our hearts to still. It enables our minds to relax. It enables us to connect more readily with that prayerful part of ourselves we deny most of the time. Humans are generally pretty spiritual people. If you research it through history, mankind has always been looking for the answer to the great questions of, “Why am I here?” “Why was I created?” “Where did this all begin?” In the silence of our hearts, God can enter in and be a part of us. If we truly believe God is present, as present as He is on the Cross itself, in Holy Communion, in the reading of His Word, then we must believe He can be present within each of us. “Lord, when did I feed the hungry? When you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.” He tells us He is within each of us. We have a space in our hearts, in what the Orthodox refer to as the NOUS, a place that is reserved solely for God. And when He takes residence, we are changed. Forever. And silence allows us to commune with the God we believe in, Who lives in each of us. He is desperate to love us, to guide us, to feed us. Most of us are too busy, and too loud to ever hear Him. God loves to whisper. He loves to be present in the mundane workings of life. He is present in the simplest things, like bread and wine. He is a part our basic needs, our simplest selves. We cannot fully commune with God when there is so much going on around us. Many of us build walls between ourselves and Our God. And it is so very sad. He is patient; He waits our entire lives for us to welcome and acknowledge Him.
Some people have music on all the time – in their cars, on their phones, in their ears, when they sleep at night. A lot of people have told me they cannot handle the quiet; they have to keep moving and have to be listening to something all the time. Why is that? What would happen if you sat still in silence? What would happen if you laid in your bed, in total darkness, in complete silence?
And that, for me, is what Lent is all about. Coming to grasp with what lies inside us, that thing we are afraid to deal with in the dark and in the quiet. We are fearful because then we have no one else between us and God. So this Lent I am challenging myself to more quiet. To more rest. To finding and holding onto that peace that can only come from the Presence of God in me, in my life, and in how I relate to those around me. Allowing the indwelling Lord of All Creation to be alive within me is the goal of all Christians. We just need to dial down the sound and the world, and allow Christ to come in and reside, truly live within us.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s as simple as that.