The so-called seven deadly sins represent natural gifts distorted or taken to unhealthy extremes. Distorted behaviors upset the balance of relationships with others, with God and within oneself. Spiritual disciplines are designed to bring these natural gifts back into proper spiritual proportion.
Lent is a good time to examine our gifts and whether they are in balance or manifesting as sins. The Christian tradition teaches disciplines of engagement to counteract sins of omission and disciplines of abstinence to counteract sins of commission. Accordingly, each post during Lent will examine a discipline of engagement and a discipline of abstinence appropriate for bringing one of the “seven deadly sins” into balance as the natural gift it was intended to be.
Our free will to love and to create is perhaps our greatest spiritual gift and the
foremost way in which we’re created in God’s image. We are free to seek God’s will or to choose our own way. When distorted, the gift of free will can lead to the sin of greed. The discipline of engagement that counteracts ignoring God’s will is prayer. The discipline of abstinence that counteracts greed is silence.
I live in a neighborhood where the electricity goes out if the wind blows the wrong way. If you’ve experienced an electrical outage, you may recall the sensation of all the motors in your house going quiet, and you might even become aware of electronics that run largely without your notice. I generally notice the sound of the HVAC, but I rarely notice the fans whirring in my refrigerator or my PC or my monitor’s soft buzz until that crack of static before they cease.
My brain is a little like that. There are processes whirring that I am not altogether conscious of—trifling anxieties about a presentation, mental notes on my schedule, little calculations of when I must finish one task to be on time for the next. All of these run in the background when I’m concentrating on something. And often it’s only when I stop thinking that I notice this interior noise.
Some are able to summon interior quietude amidst a cacophony, but I find a quiet environment helps me silence my thoughts. It is in this silence that we are most apt to hear God. When Elijah hides from the Israelites (and, incidentally, from the Lord also), God seeks him out.
He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Sometimes God appears to us in fantastic phenomena, but for most of us most of the time, we find God, who has been seeking us all along, in sheer silence.
If prayer is a two way conversation with God, at some point, we have to stop talking and start listening. A discipline of silence will help us hear.
Join the conversation. How do you quiet the processes whirring in your mind?
Copyright 2013 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.