Over the past year I’ve had opportunity to companion several women through incredibly tough journeys.
Some through my spiritual direction work and others just as a friend who relates.
We have laughed (because hey, that’s a simple stress reliever), cried, prayed together and most of all did a LOT of waiting.
The experience feels like an unexpected guest at times, am I right? It’s the surprise no one intended would actually happen but yet, here we are.
I waited with these women on practical matters: court processes, judge’s decisions, insurance responses, testing results. We waded through waters of intangibles too…waves of difficult emotions in their unexpected season.
And sometimes we simply sat in silence.
Recently one friend* offered aloud, ‘I just don’t know how to pray anymore! I have no more words.’ My heart felt taken by her thought.
I could relate to a silenced soul.
When your soul can’t find the words
Sometimes we need silence.
To be in and with our emotional responses, questions, thoughts without interruption of speaking or writing. Just being.
Other times, we need something else.
I recall my loss for words during a season of intense overwhelm. Several years had been spent exploring and facing realities difficult to accept as true. I felt exhausted : emotionally raw : spiritually spent.
At that point in time, I too didn’t know how to pray. My thoughts could hardly quite wrap around my daily experience…
…I lost my own words.
So I began a practice used many times before: when my soul loses its voice, I borrow from another.
Pulling out my favorite notebook, I started writing
and writing some more.
I copied words which expressed my needs and desires at the time. Multiple Psalms found place in my notebook and I moved on to writing other Scriptures of comfort, hope and peace.
Silence is Okay
I firmly believe in the beauty and power of silence.
Maybe my introverted nature readily embraces the gift, but I feel our communities – families, churches, schools and more – are simply too loud, too often.
It’s as though we are afraid of quiet!
Friend, if silence is your soul need, if you cannot construct thoughts or words around your experience and just want TO BE…
…then take it, create it, protect your silent and quiet time — perhaps alone?
Be okay with sharing you prefer not to talk right now or let phone calls go to voicemail. Allow yourself freedom to rename boundaries or add more in.
I suggest you insulate, not isolate.
Let someone know you are okay, how to check up on you or where/when to reach you. Then for a time protect your space from outside influences which may feel overwhelming (insulate).
But if your soul needs words…
and cannot form them,
I offer you borrow from someone, somewhere which aligns with what you might say if you could: read, speak or write these words.
In my season, I found Scripture most reliable to express my heart.
I also borrowed from books, uplifting quotes, encouraging emails of friends and more. I copied or pasted into my notebook anything which spoke my soul’s needs.
Try it? Let me know if you find this helpful.
And if you hold another practice which supports your journey, consider sharing! I would love to hear.
* note: these are thoughts of a personal friend offering affirmation to use her words; my spiritual direction work is completely confidential.
I leave you with a blessing from author Jan Richardson
Blessing in the Chaos
To all that is chaotic
let there come silence.
Let there be
of the clamoring,
of the voices that
have laid their claim
that have made their
home in you,
that go with you
even to the
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.
Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.
Let there be
into the quiet
that lies beneath
where you find
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.