Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Silence is God’s First Language

 “Be still, and know that I am God.”—Psalm 46:10a

By nature, my spirituality and the spiritual disciplines that I practice have been oriented toward a rational approach.  For years, I have kept prayer lists, read sections of the Bible more or less daily (and even read through the Bible on several occasions), memorized scripture, and emphasized the practical implications of the Christian life.

 While involved in a Companions in Christ study several years ago, I was introduced to the categories developed by Urban T. Holmes to describe the different ways in which Christians exercise their spirituality.  He suggested two scales to describe spiritual experience—the mystery/revelation scale and the mind/heart scale.  Corinne Ware develops this further in her book, Discover Your Spiritual Type.  Her four types are revelation/mind, revelation/heart, mystery/heart, and mystery/mind.

Without a great deal of reflection, it was clear to me that I operated most often out of the revelation/mind quadrant.  This type tends toward theological reflection and practice with a danger of “intellectualization” of the spiritual life.  According to Ware, if you are aware of your natural tendency you can do several things including growing toward your opposite quadrant in order to enrich your spiritual life.

In my case, the opposite quadrant is mystery/heart.  The desire of a person in this category is to be one with God, the Holy One.  One who practices this perspective in turn challenges others to a deeper experience with God.  I had read a good bit about the classical spiritual disciplines and have tried to practice some of them, but I have been focused recently on one that rests solidly in the mystery/heart quadrant--the contemplative practice called Centering Prayer.  Gregory the Great (sixth century) referred to this as “resting in God.”

In a workshop I attended in February on Centering Prayer, Rev. Tom Ward reminded us that “God’s first language is silence.”  Therefore, if we learn to be silent, we can experience a deeper relationship with the God who “speaks” to us in silence.

Learning a new spiritual discipline is not necessarily easy but doing so opens up new ways of relating to God.  I am thankful to be able to learn such disciplines from a long line of Christian saints and those who are contemporary practitioners.

 - ware

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