Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Reading Mother Teresa--XXII
Walking home from school for me means walking west into what is, this daylight-shortened time of year, the first warm glow of sunset. For years I've told myself--especially during frenetic seasons like this one, exam time--that some day I'm just going to keep walking into all that buttery glory. I'm going to head west like Huck Finn and millions of others who hear the siren song of a dreamy new life. Someday, instead of stopping at 347 Third Avenue, I'll just keep walking. Like an old bull bison, I'll leave the herd forever, wander out somewhere into the hills along the river, and hunker down.
Sounds good right now. Well, maybe a little cold. Ah, big deal--I got a down jacket.
I've got eleventy-seven papers to read, more pouring in daily. Today, I'm off to speak at a high school chapel, I've got two big speeches to write, an exam to give (36 more papers) this afternoon, and a junk drawer full of little complexities too mean to mention. But then I'm but a semester away from being able to just keep walking. Just a semester.
I'm sure I'm not as busy as Mother Teresa. I'm sure that those Calcutta streets full of poor folks made demands on her and her time that may well have prompted her to look up wistfully toward beaming sunsets herself, maybe even more than occasionally. The dogged vow she took upon herself--the promise of utter loyalty to the Lord's will--created a listening ear in her that probably never shut down because she wanted, above all else, to hear the voice of God obediently, never to miss even his most indistinct whispers.
Which is why, I suppose, she loved to tell herself and others that "in the silence of the heart God speaks."
Strikes me as vividly anti-American because I ought to be connected--always. I ought to have all the gizmos. Last week our grandson stayed around after dinner and begged, to watch Ninja Pandas or some such thing. Begged. I know why, because it was difficult for him--as it is for any of us who are tuned in 24/7--to entertain silence. He has to be entertained. Me too. My little iPod touch keeps me connected, keeps silence at bay, even though it doesn't speak unless spoken too. I read the Huffington Post far more often than the gospels, Drudge more than King David. I'm serious.
I know Mother Teresa's right, and so does anyone else who listens. "In the silence of the heart, God speaks." Maybe that's why I'm addicted to getting up early every morning.
But then maybe not. I know well and good that every little whisper in my ear isn't the voice of God.
Still, we all know she's right: "In the silence of the heart God speaks."
Some of my ethnic and religious ancestors stuck a copy of Abraham Kuyper's To Be Near Unto God into the pockets of their barn jackets when they immigrated a century ago or more, so special were those meditations to them. The focus of that book is on achieving moments of eternal bliss, just moments. "To be near unto God," for Abraham Kuyper, meant maintaining a daily walk that kept humanoids within whispering distance of God's own voice. No residents of this world can possibly live near unto God 24/7, Kuyper might have said, but we can all come blessedly close for occasional divine moments.
I don't doubt that ye olde neo-Calvinist, Father Abraham, would have heartily assented to Mother Teresa: "In the silence of the heart God speaks."
Which is to say, I suppose, be still and know.
It's just before six. I've said enough.