“You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos,
From the chains of a lesser law You set me free.
In the silence of the heart You speak,
In the silence of the heart You speak,
And it is there that I will know You
And You will know me” – Audrey Assad
“Communion with God in the silence of the heart is a God-given capacity, like the rhododendron’s capacity to flower, the fledgling’s for flight, and the child’s for self-forgetful abandon and joy.” – Martin Laird
A few months ago I lost my faith.
Not my faith in God. But my faith in words, in human language. My faith in my thoughts and my feelings. My faith in my experiences. I lost my faith.
God was still there in mysterious splendour, in gentle humility, in magnificent beauty, in peacefully constant faithfulness. I just couldn’t find the words to describe him. How do we describe the Infinitely Indescribable? How is it that the Great Unknowable makes himself known?
In this place you tend to question a lot of things. Why do I do this? Why do I believe this about God? Why does a church gathering look like this? Am I just going through the motions?
God was still there. Shining on like the sun. Patient.
I have spoken much about surrender on this blog. The importance of going all in no matter the cost. Publicly and privately I have cried and wept, I have danced and flailed, shouted and sung, laughed, knelt down, laid down. I have gone on that journey of opening my heart to the Lord. Choosing to surrender in any way that I can. In the loud or in the quiet. I wanted to give my all.
The problem with all of the above is that they involved me doing things. Tim choosing to dance. Tim choosing to sing. Tim choosing to lay down. Tim choosing to shout. Tim doing whatever he can to surrender himself before the Lord.
I’ve come to realise, maybe even in the last week, that there is an invitation to a deeper surrender. A surrender not so much focused on doing but a surrender of being. A surrender of silence.
There is not much that the Bible tells us about Holy Saturday in the Bible. Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for Jesus’ body and lays it in a garden tomb. Luke’s account states: “It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:54-56)
Everything stopped for the Sabbath. A holy pause. A silent moment where hope is seemingly dead. How did the disciples feel? How did they cope with the inner turmoil of the events that proceeded this silent Sabbath? The man they had followed for three years was dead. His body lay in a tomb. They had given everything – they had left all they had to follow him. They had believed when others doubted. They had become his friend. They knew him. They had seen the miracles, the signs, the wonders. Through him they had seen God. Yet now he was dead. Hope gone. Hope in the ground. Hope behind the stone. How did they feel? What grief did they experience? What questions ripped apart their very being?
And the response to their questions, their bitter pain, their devastating disappointment, their anguish and torment? Nothing. Not on Holy Saturday. Silence. Emptiness. Nothingness.
There’s not much the Bible tells us about this Sabbath because there is not much that the friends and followers of Jesus could have done. Sabbath… stop, rest, pause. Silence.
There is nothing that they could do.
There is a deeper place of surrender that does not revolve around what we can do. This is the surrender of silence. It is a surrender where we acknowledge that there is nothing that we can do. Instead we respond to the invitation to embrace the silence of Saturday. We acknowledge our questions, our doubts, our fears, our insecurities, our emotions but we are not defined by them. We let the confines of human language fall to the floor and we are simply still. Whereas my journey of surrender thus far has been dictated by internal thoughts and feelings, which have then led to external action, the surrender of silence simply stops and is still. The former is valid and important and I am not discounting what I have learnt and how I have grown to know God. He has loved my heart. However, the latter is beautiful.
The surrender of silence is a place where we learn to simply and profoundly be. The journey before was full of noise! Brash, bold and boisterous. What is more precious than sitting before Limitless Love and not needing to do anything other than silently be?
Have we truly learnt to surrender until we know how to be still? There is an inherent silence to surrender. A silence found in the deepest reaches of our hearts.
In this place we learn that there are no words, no thoughts, no feelings, no actions that can define us. There is only the love of the Infinite Father. This is a surrender that is no longer based on what I can do. It centres on who he is. Yes, I have my questions, my fears, my doubts, my insecurities, my frailties… but they are not my identity. They are not who I am. All that matters is him. Fix your eyes on the one who is Perfect Love.
There is a silence on this Saturday. Our precious Saviour lays dead and there are more questions than answers. Words cannot describe how we feel, the thoughts that rush through our heads, the pain we’ve experienced, the loneliness we’ve felt, the grief, the torment. We know not what to do.
Embrace the silence.
Acknowledge the questions, the doubts, the thoughts and feelings and move on into the realm of silent peace where we can gaze into the eyes of our heavenly Dad.
Holy Saturday is an invitation to surrender. It is an invitation to be still. It is an invitation to peaceful, beautiful silence.
“You can have it all Lord,
every part of my world.” – Brian Johnson
Thank you to Richard Rohr and Martin Laird who, through their writings, have provided words and inspiration for this journey when I had no framework or words for myself.