Recently I rose from my wheelchair and began to walk. I immediately realized what I was doing and was horrified. I’m one of those strange people who follow doctor’s instructions to a tee, and walking is a no-no for two more weeks. In spite of my alarmed reaction, I continued to walk. I cannot explain my behavior, except to say that it transpired in a dream. Numerous times, though, I’ve caught myself on the verge of really getting up to walk. What I wouldn’t give to be able to walk to the kitchen for an ice cream bar or to run down stairs to fetch a book. Why, I’m almost looking forward to the day when I can enter the yard to do doggy-doo-doo-duty.
Why, oh why, am I stuck in this wheelchair? The message I keep getting is, “Be still, Linda…” I’m rereading God’s Joyful Surprise, by Sue Monk Kidd, and this message flashes at me like a garish neon sign from every other page. It pops up in everything I read, in fact, like an annoying pop up internet commercial, but without the congratulatory announcement that I am the 10,000th visitor, and “click here to claim your prize.”
It’s so hard to be still, physically or mentally. Recently, my daughter observed me reading in my wheelchair, wheeling back and forth, as if in a rocker. “Mom, that’s the perfect chair,” she declared, cheerily, “for someone like you with restless leg syndrome.” I also have restless brain syndrome, AND restless spirit syndrome, as well.
As I sit, rocking back and forth, it occurs to me that maybe God is urging me to be still. Maybe he is longing for me to listen to him; to become quiet and to put away my long “to-do” list for God, and simply listen. “It’s not like God to yell in order to make Himself heard over all the sounds in our world,” states Sue, in God’s Joyful Surprise. “Rather He calls on us to turn from our frantic lives and grow quiet.”
Grow quiet—in this noisy life of mine? Quiet implies silence, and, “without listening, silence is just a vacuum. But learning to hear His whisper is the most delicate miracle of all.” Julian of Norwich said that when a person is at ease or at rest with God, she “does not need to pray, but to contemplate reverently what God says.”
I often tell my clients that 90% of communication is listening. This has to be true, also, in our relationship with God. Just think, when we go to God in prayer, we don’t have to say a thing—just listen. And in our loss for words, our confusion, our tangle of emotions, “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)
During warm weather, a part of my bedtime ritual is to sit outside on the deck and listen to the sounds of the night. As I sink into the velvety darkness, and as the silence envelops me, I slowly become aware of voices in the nearby woods—a symphony of tree frogs, cicadas, owls, even raccoons. What I initially experience as silence is actually a cacophony of critters. I love the feeling that I am not alone. I love that in the midst of darkness is life.
Perhaps listening for God is similar to my nighttime listening. In the dark times, God often seems absent and silent. But could it be that if I quiet myself I will feel God’s presence, hear God’s whispers? Can I relax into God’s presence and let God be God? Can I trust the Spirit to intercede for me? This depth of relationship with God is what I long for.
Perhaps my wheelchair is just the vehicle I need to enter into this intriguing silence where God waits for me.
“I have stilled and quieted my soul.”