For the past week, I've been treking through the wilderness and National Parks of Utah and northern Arizona. My friend and colleague Craig Holmes and I put a lot of miles on our rental car. We went to some amazing places and did some astounding things. Over and over, I was reminded of the magnitude of creation. I was drawn deeper into the divine life as I experienced the limitless imagination of the creator.
Although my companion and I spent nearly every minute of every day (sleeping and waking) with my companion, lots of that time was spent in slience. It is cliche, but, when we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we both climbed over one of the guard rails near the North Rim Lodge, scrambled out onto a deserted place on the rocks, and sat for twenty solid minutes--just staring out at the enormity of the canyon before us. Overwhelmed with a sense of my finitude and insignificance, I encountered the human condition in a way I had never felt. My limitedness, my brokenness, my fragility, my inconsequentiality were all immediately present as I looked out over the millions of years of process that lay before me. I couldn't speak. I didn't want to speak. Afterward, Craig expressed a mourning that he felt--a sadness that he had to leave but shouldn't leave and knew he would likely never be back in that place again. It was powerful. We didn't say a word,
Yesterday, I arrived in Salt Lake City (SLC) for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and I have been surrounded by noise and words and faces ever since. I love the noises. I love spending time with people. My face lit up when I saw an old friend. I laughed with seminary buddies. I bowed my head with a nod of respect when I saw an old mentor. If nothing else, General Convention is an ongoing, 18-hours-a-day, thousands-of-people, always-something-to-talk-about, always-someone-to-talk-to festival. It's full of words. Our legislative committee has over 50 resolutions to consider. I'm reading more right now than I ever do. It is an extrovert's dream. I love everything about it, but part of me pines for the red hills and scrub grass of the Utah desert and, more substantially, for the silence that come with them.
I am a talker by nature, but I love silence. I'm here to contribute to the mission of the church and the building up of God's kingdom in the words that I hear and speak but also in the silence I keep. I'm looking forward to early, quiet mornings. I'm looking forward to lonely, quiet nights. Yes, I miss my wife and family very dearly. I would love to share part of this experience with them. But, if they were here, I would also need to search for some silence. I need it--especially during these 11 days of innumerable words.
Be still and know that I am God, the Psalmist wrote. At the commissioning of legislative officers and aides, the Presiding Bishop reminded us that we are the body of Christ. We don't "do" the body of Christ. It's who we are. She expressed that the way we do our work is more important than the product of our labors. Although the work is important, of course, she's right. It doesn't matter how much or how little gets done if we're working for our own sakes. And how will we know whether we're doing the Lord's work or merely pursuing our own path? If we're quiet long enough to listen.