Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Sounds of Silence

There are at least two levels of silence, if not many more: the silence after the audible sounds have left, and the silence after the accusers and justifiers have left.

The first is just getting to a place or a space, of solitude, of quiet, of silence. This is where physical, or audible silence, or at least something close enough to it to give the mind room to listen. Only utter silence works if I have ear plugs in, because mere stillness still has creaking floors, stepping cats, or distance cars to distract (they actually startle me, which is worse). Often I just use a fan or something that lightly covers over those other noices, something consistant and non-discript. But this is all merely technique preparing for silence by getting rid of the exterior sounds.

The second level of silence I often do not achieve. This is occurs when all the sounds of the accusers and justifiers have left my mind and my soul. Some struggle more with silencing the accurser, other the justifiers. The accusers all the thoughts and memories of what has gone wrong in a day or week, or last five minutes, and the recounting of your responsibility, of your guilt, of your shame within those moments. These voices are infinitely varied for each person because of our different families and contexts. The voices might accuse about failing to love someone, or being responsible for someone else’s failure, or you being the cause of relational problems, or you not raising your children right way, or you saying something just like your mother. It could almost be anything, and often is everything you have done, said, or left undone or unsaid. These voices often take on the persona of someone else, or God, a parent, sibling, spouce, friend, of some other authority in your life, shifting between these persons depending on the situation or infaction. The accuser slips into silence and proclaims that you are unworthy and unacceptible.

The voice of the justifier is usually given your own voice. It is you trying to explain, argue, convince others that you are right about something, that you didn’t mess it up, that they are the ones who don’t understand, that they are the ones in sin and causing all the problems. This is the voice of self-justification, or self-satisfaction before others, knowing that you are superior, but needing to tell yourself again just so that you feel better about yourself and your situation, about your effort, about your life. The justifier replays that past argument at work, and changes it so you come out looking good. It anticipates that future conversation you need to have with a friend about how they were wrong to treat you so poorly and how it offended you. The justifier mulls over a perceived social slighting by another, and dreams about how it might be reciprocated. In all these ways the justifer slips into the silence and proclaims that you are essentially right and good.

But in a sense, both the accuse and the justifer are addictions which we hardly know about until we enter silence. They are manifestations that we are addicted to ourselves, either in condemnig ourselve or approving of ourselves. And don’t be fooled, while it might seem transparent that self-justification is of course odious for Christians, self-loathing is equally as bad. While the former trusts ourselves for approval, the latter does not trust God in his approval of us.

But in any case, passing into the second level of silence is to silence these voices, which is a mental struggle all its own. It is here amid the warring voices heard most clearly in silence that we can turn toward the grace of God, the approval of God, the truth of God spoken in Christ. And this voice of Christ is only heard after the sounds of silence have ceased.

1 comment:

  1. I did not realize you picked things up again with this blog. Sweet.