About a week ago – it was a Wednesday night – I grabbed my coat and put on my shoes and walked outside, into the pouring rain, the kind that soaks you in a few seconds. I took a deep breath and ran for my truck, ducking through the drops. Cars drove by slowly, leaving a wake behind them.
The water on the windshield made the nighttime lights blur and run, like liquid spilled on a wet painting. When I parked outside of Saint James Episcopal Church, that particular band of rain had already fled east, leaving only a spitting drizzle and a small river that rushed along the sidewalks, plunging under the city. It made me wonder about the invisible side of a city, the things we can’t see, the dark depths always there just beneath us.
I walked into the small chapel, into the semi-darkness, and joined about ten other people. The only light that was on was a spotlight shining on a painting of Jesus on the cross. I stared at his suffering. I found my breath coming low and heavy, like consecutive sighs.
Father David, in his graceful way, led us through some short thoughts, and then we sat there for 25 minutes in silence. I repeated one phrase over and over again in my mind, maybe 100 times during those minutes.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
When you wade into silence for that long, a novice like me must have an anchor to hold to, a phrase or a thought or an image that keeps you tethered in space. Otherwise, I’ll be cast adrift, lost in the battling thoughts of my own mind. Silence is a deep water that welcomes us, but the voices in our head are strong currents.
Outside, another band of rain approached, pinging against the stained glass windows, followed by rumbles of thunder that shook me to the core. Things pulled at my mind – current events, certain presidential nominees, my own financial uncertainties – but as each thought entered my mind, I opened the back door and let it walk straight out.
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
Whether or not you are a Christian, there is incredible peace found in the depths of silence. If you’ll take the time to enter. Of course, you’re likely to find your worst fears there, and the meanest voices, and the loudest worries. Just make sure to prop open the back door of your mind so that the chattering voices can find a way out.
I put on my coat and walked back out into the city, once again between bands of heavy rain. The air was warm and smelled of spring. The trees rattled and clattered together in the wind. The deep shadows that lined the alleys were welcoming, like silence.