And out of the silence rings a bell, a conversation is carried across the quad by the changing wind, and the “click, click” of a flywheel as a bike zooms passed. There is the crunch of leaves as someone walks past on the sidewalk, someone shouting from the steps of a lecture hall, and the bell rings again. Then, silence.
And your mind answers the question you didn’t even know you were asking but all the sound is coming from something, coming from people trying to take a world bigger than themselves and shrink it into pieces more manageable. We break the world into fragments because we are afraid of what we can’t understand, of what is bigger than us, and so instead of a world being big and wild and uncontainable, we break it into walks and crunching leaves and conversations and bicycles.
But what about the silence when the world is quiet and there are no more pieces or distractions to pull us away from how big it all is and how small we all are? All we can hear is the beating of our own heart and the breath escaping from our own lungs. We can’t ask ‘what is that’ because there is no that. There is only us and our own beating heart and the silence of the world is deafening because we are forced to sit and listen to the storm in our own heart.
There is no bicycle or conversation or bell or anything. There is no ‘that’. There is only ‘this’. And this is scary because ‘this’ is now, ‘this’ is who we are, ‘this’ is where we are going. ‘This’ is the decisions we have made. ‘This’ is the actions we have taken and the wrongs we have made and the paths we have followed. And in the silence of it all we are forced to look at the ‘this’ in our heart and all of who we are stares at us in this face and asks the questions we can’t answer. It asks the questions we don’t know the answers to. It asks what is right and what is wrong. It asks who we are and what are we becoming. The storm of ‘this’ rages in our heart as our own breathe escapes from our own lungs. We realize we are the sum of all the decisions we have made and we are the sum of all the ones we haven’t. Because why do we do the things we do? We are who we are and we do what we do because all we have done has shaped everything we currently are and when all is quiet we are forced to look at the core of our very being and pass judgement on what we have become. Good or bad, this is the way it works.
And we ask ‘what is’ because ‘is’ is present and now and us. And the wind blows and the seas rage and the storm swells because ‘is’ is very rarely what should be. In crushing, loud, breaking silence, we ask ‘what is.’ In deep sorrow and loss of self, we ask ‘what is.’
Then it happens. The silence is so loud and unpleasant and when it threatens to finally crush us we hear a voice in the back of our brain, in the bottom of our heart, that says ‘I am,’ transporting us back to a time when the seas really did rage and the winds were really blowing and the boat was on the verge of sinking. ‘I am’ walked out on the deck of the boat, because of all things he was sleeping, and he speaks to the waves and the wind and sea and he says ‘be still.’ He conquers the supposedly unconquerable and the waves grew silent, like glass.
And just now, in the silence, ‘what is’ threatens to sink the boat which is really our very own self but ‘I am’ says to the storm to ‘be silent.’ Because it really is finished and all the things we have done in the past and all the decisions we have made and not made that are staring us in the face and threatening to drown us are silenced by the God who says, ‘I am.’
The irony of the whole thing is the silence so threatening before is in itself quieted by the very same ‘I am’ who created the universe and walked on the earth and died on a cross to break the bonds of ‘what is,’ and we realize it doesn’t even matter what we did or didn’t do because the story was written by ‘I am’ who is in control of all things and is before all things and holds all things together.
And the best part of the whole thing, the part so amazing and wonderful and lovely, is ‘I am’ is, right now, on the grass in the quad with us directing the world which seems so big and vast and wild and uncontainable.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.