Piercing silences. Most of us don’t do well with breaks in conversation. Usually, it’s referred to as the “awkward” silence. I’ve had one that’s nearly lasted four days now. This may sound a little ridiculous, but my iPod broke Monday when I was ironically trying to fix it by resetting it at work and the work computer froze. I’ve had no music at work and even less (it seems) for my commutes. For someone who lives to a soundtrack, this silence sends me crashing about for earplugs. It’s deafening. So, yesterday I decided to confront the silence head on and turn off the radio for my drive home.
Retreating to the noise. I couldn’t stay silent for more than a few seconds. Even when I was “silent”, I was spending that time trying to shed the onslaught of thoughts like a duck’s feathers do water. I’d failed. When I could no longer take it, I gave in to my defeat. It wasn’t until reading later on in the evening I understood better why it’d been so hard. It wasn’t until later that I realized why finishing the forty-three questions in last week’s post has been so elusive. It wasn’t until last night that I realized I’m naked.
Technically speaking. It’s the reason we’re so attached to our iPhones, TVs, social media, etc. We’re terrified of confronting the darkness within. We’re terrified of silence because silence brings us to those places and we’re afraid we might not return. My iPod was a means of taking meaningful time alone in the car and wasting it being tranquilized by the melodic tunes that were stored upon it. It was a retreat from the cold world outside. It was my escape from the meaningful. Not always, but many times. But I, we are not the first to do this. Why should we be different?
The man who fought with God. Maybe some of you are not familiar with the story of Jacob, but he was a twerp in the Bible. His life story is wrought with cheating people and being cheated. There comes a time in his life when he’s done and he goes to return to Esau, his brother whom he cheated out of his birthright for a bowl of soup and whose inheritance he stole. Jacob realizes he doesn’t have any other choice, so he goes and the night before confronting his brother, he sleeps alone as he’s sent the rest of his entourage on. That night, he spends it wrestling with a man in the dark. The entire night, Jacob engages in hand-to-hand combat with a nondescript stranger. Right before sunrise, the man tries to escape from Jacob, but only by hitting below the belt (in the hip). Jacob asks the man for a blessing and the man turns, telling him that he already has been blessed and will be called Israel. Then, it is morning and the man is gone.
Back to the darkness. That night, Jacob finally wrestled with his own demons. He went to the mat with his life and his faith. The only problem for us today is that to do that, Jacob had to venture into the darkness. Nothing that has to do with God is dark in Christian-ese. Yet, to deal with his brokenness and doubt, Jacob had no choice but to go into darkness and alone. Not only this, but he appeared to his family the next day wounded. Jacob limped for the rest of his life. We don’t like darkness. We don’t like being alone. And we really don’t like hurt. Yet, in this story, all are holy. All are just part of the journey God laid out for Jacob. They are all along the path that leads to Israel, he who fought with God. In the end, Israel is whole, weathered and purposed. He is not who he was.
Jacob isn’t punished for wrestling with God, instead he’s blessed. It’s to be noted that it’s not unnecessary pugilism, but a deep willingness to be open with God and try to understand Him. Thousands of years later, we forget this story as we’re too busy consuming status updates, food, clothing, significant others, promotions. We’re more content in the third of an inch deep pool of our iPhones than our spiritual health and general wellness. To be honest, it makes sense we’re so infatuated with thinner devices as they begin to mirror the depths of our souls. Each day they’re getting shallower as we avoid the piercing silences.