Dear Henri, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — Advent Week 2, Day 13

Silent-Retreat

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a]but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
-Matthew 24:36-44

 

Dear Henri,

Okoro continues her surprising invitation of advent by gesturing us to engage in silence itself. For without it, we continue only to hear what we choose to hear: our busy lives, our families, our co-workers, our media sources, our opinions, our shopping lists, our Christams party dates, and our quite important gift lists. Stuffing all this noise into ourselves, almost perpetually since we demand we remain jacked in and online, we are unable and unwilling to face our fears, doubts and mistrust.

"The idea of being alone with our own thoughts and with God can be intimidating. When we have cleared our lives of distractions and pause to sit in the ensuring space, many surprising and unavoidable feelings and thoughts can surface in our minds and hearts. Furthermore we may hear not only our true selves but also what God is trying to speak in our lives. Silence forces us to name the sources of meaning, value, and identity." (Okoro, p.55).

If you're anything like me, Henri (or Okoro for that matter), silence roars like the ocean when I actually sit down, make space, and listen. For a while, those voices of Christmas lists, dates, errands, gifts and meetings scream between my ears. It's fearsome enough for anyone to believe that this stage is actually all there is.

But if I'm able to make it through the red herring of my own busy-ness, I come to that even more terrifying stage: pure space that enables revelation. I can't hide from my true fears anymore, nor my doubts or pain. It's all there in sharp relief, with barely a lonesome wind whining through the terraces. It's here I run. 

As fast as I possibly can.

Extremely loud, the silence is, and incredibly close — so close that it whispers in my ears no matter how fast I run or hard I hide. I'm swimming in it, and my attempts at escape look more like a flimsy swimmer escaping the deep end via water. It never stops. It never ends.

Enter God. (scratch that: enter me)

God knows what was spoken to Elizabeth and Zechariah in their respective times of retreat. God knows what was revealed or healed or given new life. God knows if new life gave birth to more questions or even more fear.

Ten years ago this night, Henri, I was packed and ready to fly out of Bucharest. I had spent months in Romania working with orphaned and abandoned children. My sense was to return to Canada, get the correct work visas, and fly back to Romania and continue on. But God had a different sort of retreat in mind.

My mind.

I had already suffered a severe shock just days before. There was an infant girl I had bonded with; one whom I was wracking my brain over how to adopt or become a mother to. Three days before I left Romania, she disappeared from the hospital where we cared for. I never saw her again.

But in the silence I know now that the shock and damage didn't begin with Katie's disappearance. It was years in the making — years.

I was too exhausted to perceive much of anything at 6am, waiting to catch my flight to Frankfurt. By the time I caught my connecting flight to Frankfurt, I had flutters of excitment over seeing my family again. My younger brother was set to married in just five days!

But then I caught my second connecting flight in Toronto and begain winging my way back to Calgary. As the plane descended on Albertan soil, I recollect the exact moment when I felt the world begin to unravel. My shoulders suddenly felt they were carrying thousands of tons; my chest seized and my breathing became shallow; I despised being back in Canada and wanted nothing more to flee back to Romania; and I was face to face with my current reality: I had no permanent home, no money, and no job… and no savings.

My entire world, already fractured, split apart.

I sat in my room that night in silence.

The heaviness of my situation bore down on me.

And God was nowhere to be found. Fear and trauma screamed in the quiet and had not the words to exhale them out.

In the short time I had between landing in Calgary and traveling to Edmonton for the wedding, I spent what little money I had on photocopying resumes. None came to fruition, and I was told — for all my ministry experience at that point — that I was good for little more than a retail job. 

Suddenly the small detail of having nothing to wear to the wedding became the end of the world. Still, I swallowed it all down, walked into a Salvation Army thrift store and found a simple black Calvin Klein dress for $10. Payment in cash.

I made it through the wedding, although I remember little.

I made it to my mother and father's place up north, although I cannot recall how I got there.

And I crumbled.

I remembered sobbing… jibbering this and that to my parents… shaking… sleeping… and sobbing some more. I remember I couldn't get back up.

How's that for a call to silence, Henri? I'm sure you can relate, Wounded Healer. 

10 years ago tomorrow marks the beginning of one of the darkest and most dangerous times in my life, Henri. Even now I wish I could forget sometimes, but forgetting wouldn't be a gift. The gift is being able to remember, to see where God's voice whispered through, and to wonder why God let it all happen to begin with.

Whatever the reason… I'm here now. Light, dark, silence and noise. Extremely loud and incredibly close.

Until tomorrow, Henri,
Love,

Erin

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