May 23rd, 2019

"The Discipline of Being Silent Together"

From: "The Walk: The Life-Changing Journey of Two Friends"

 

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8

 

  One bitterly cold, snowy day during the winter of 1979 when Bill and I were supposed to take our regular walk together, classes had already been canceled, and I presumed we would have to wait for another day.  Still, I climbed the hill and made my way to his office on the third floor.  As I turned the corner, I discovered that he was already waiting for me in the hallway, coat in hand.

  "Ready, Miguel?"  he asked, his face already flushed at the prospect of time together walking.

  In the muffled quiet of the foot-deep snowfall, we did our usual two times around campus.  With snowflakes piling up on his bushy eyebrows, my professor led the way as I, slipping and shivering, tried to keep up with his ridiculous pace.  That walk became for me a parable of our relationship: Bill pushing on, courageously leading the way, and I struggling just to keep up, just to keep him in sight.

  It was an unusually quiet walk for us.  Most often we chattered away, but perhaps because of the muffling effect of the snow or the deserted campus or maybe because we were beginning to understand how precious is the silence that precedes speech, we slogged through the knee-deep snow without a word. 

  "You seem quiet," I finally said.  This too was a break from the norm since it was Bill who always plied me with questions.

  "Really? I'm just enjoying the time," he said.  "Would it be all right if we just walked quietly today?"

  This was a new dimension for me. Dr. Lane, not as an answer man or counselor, not as a discussion partner, but as a companion.  He did not seem to feel the need to fill up the time with talk, and by doing so he added a precious value to our time together.  It was not that some other issue distracted him.  He was not lost in thought.  He was "mindful" that afternoon and invited me into that intensely personal space with him, a space that needs no words, only presence.

  Once again Jesus was using Bill to teach me about Himself.  This is the kind of time He desires with us.  Not busy, but slow time.  Time not necessarily filled with words, but always with His presence.  For those of us who need it, what could possibly be more affirming than to be invited to take a walk with Jesus - not because of our intellect or our ability to ask or answer questions, not because we are pretty or fun to be with - but simply because He desires to be with us?  He wants to fill our empty, silent lives with the fullness of His presence.

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