Monday, February 25, 2013

Joyful Silence

“I … meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:6)

The Jewish people had three overnight watches, from sundown to about 10:00, from 10 until 2, and from 2:00 until sunrise. (Later, under Roman rule, there were four watches overnight, as listed in Mark 13:35.) By mentioning watches, plural, the Psalmist is indicating that the meditation is an all-night long experience.

Have you ever “pulled an all-nighter?”

I can remember a few in college, either studying for exams or writing papers. I would stock up on high caffeine content beverages and snacky foods, you know, the really healthy stuff. Then sit at my desk struggling to stay focused on my work while all the time my brain was all up in my grill like, “Um, excuse me. This is supposed to be sleeping time. What the heck are you doing?”

Needless to say, the results of those “all-nighters” were not the best work of my academic career.

I have pulled three spiritual all-nighters in my life, all of them on Saturday nights before Easter. These Easter Vigils were very difficult for me; to sit still, stay quiet, and meditate on God for hours and hours … oh, and by the way: stay awake, too! My brain was a bit nonplussed on those nights, as well.

I wonder if those “all-nighters” were my best spiritual work.

The larger point is, happiness that comes from God does not have to be noisy. It doesn’t have to be in continual motion. Happiness in God is felt in the darkness, in the stillness, in the calm of the night, as well. I wonder if silence allows the mind and body to rest, which somehow allows the spirit to come to life in new and joyful ways.

There are times for us to make joyful noises; there are times for joyful silence, too.

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