by Tira Porter
This is the first piece of writing, aside from university papers and personal letters that I’ve written in a long time – perhaps years. You might say there’s been a proverbial darkness looming over my pen and paper. As you can imagine, because of this hiatus I’ve struggled in the last few weeks with what to say. I’ve struggled with even picking up the pen, let alone putting it on the paper and writing anything worth reading. I’ve struggled to be creative and to break the silence.
It was these words from Mother Theresa that inspired me,
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to the poor in the slums? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within; words that do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
I love the line “we need silence to be able to touch souls.” When I read this line I was encouraged that perhaps my silence has been good. Perhaps I have been growing in the silence. Perhaps I’ve been receiving, and now is my time to give – actively. So here I am, offering you my words. Words from within. Words that I hope will not increase the darkness, but touch your soul – even a little bit.
Darkness physically consumes us at this time of year. By 5:30 I am literally surrounded by darkness. I can say literally because we do not have even one streetlight on our road, and the cornfields seem to stretch for miles. Darkness also mentally clouds many people constantly, and the winter elevates it. What do we do?
Pretending it doesn’t exist, and ignoring the truth is not the way forward. But I don’t think the other extreme of embracing the darkness is either. Embracing ourselves, and embracing darkness are very different. We can seek light in the darkness while being honest with others and ourselves about our darkness. We can seek and be raw; we can use the silence to grow.
Silence. Another symptom of winter. No birds chirping, no leaves rustling, no creatures pawing through the compost heap, even the cars that pass by are muffled by the snow. Silence. Darkness. Winter. In a world with multiple tools for communication, silence is almost unheard of. It seems the things we should be silent about, we can’t stop talking about (personal grudges, food diaries, cat videos, Taylor Swift), and the things that really matter are taboo (suicide, depression, eating disorders, addictions, homelessness). More people are speaking out about these issues, but not enough. Silence is good. We grow in silence, we receive in silence, and it is out of our silence that we are able to touch souls. We need to be silent, but we do not need to be quiet.
The winter isn’t bleak yet. Where I’m writing from the grass is still green, the corn fields are just being harvested, our pot of summer herbs is still alive outside, our chickens don’t need a heat lamp, and we can still eat the beets from our garden. Our world isn’t silent yet, there are Canada Geese who still honk on their way south, big trucks filled with feed zoom past, torrential rain pounds on the windows, and the cows are still mooing. This is the easy part of winter.
Dark but not desperate.
Quiet but not silent.
I am reminded by Mother Theresa to take time to listen, to embrace the silence. This is where we grow, this is where we find God, this is where the light shines through our words and active giving, not in the noise and restlessness, but in the silence. I pray that my life this winter may be an offering of something beautiful – a life that would give light, rather than increase the darkness; a life that would show mercy and seek justice, rather than a life filled with noise and restlessness. I pray this for each of you too, that we would not live content in the dungeon of our own darkness, but that our words would touch souls and that we would seek to actively give of ourselves and thereby give light.