Diving or snorkling off the Florida Keys, this sound haunts you at all depths. You can’t see why, you can’t explain it, but there it is… always… the distinct sound of bacon sizzling right next to your ear.
When I asked around about this, I was told that it was a sound audible in the ocean anytime it is quiet enough. That it is the sound of “sand being made”, as Parrot Fish, from every quarter, rasp algae off hard surfaces… rocks… coral… ship hulls… anything… by scraping the hard wall with their beak-like raspy snouts, consume the mineral mouthful, and eventually eject sand from their gill slits or other orifice.
I don’t know if it is true or not, for I’ve not dived or snorkeled in all the waters of the world, and I can’t be sure that all of them ever truly get “quiet”. But I can tell you that wherever I HAVE been, when I am still and silent underwater, and there seems no other sound… I have heard this buzz of sizzling bacon.
I was reminded of all this today when I read some bits and pieces on prayer by some very wise, grace-filled, experienced… um… authors from ages past. The who, what, when isn’t the point here. The topic was “Stillness”, “Silence”, and “Hearing God”. Or rather… “BEING in/with God” beyond hearing or any other sensation.
We tend to be such “people of action”. We want to DO FOR God. Or DO WITH God. Or GIVE TO God. Or GET FROM God. We like to ACT, to DO, to BEHAVE, to somehow perform something that is pleasing to God.
And that it, far and away, a good thing. Yes.
But when we slow down a bit, when we focus on the Him as Him, a bit more… and the Us and Him a bit less… we are sometimes moved simply to HEAR Him. Not to do, or talk, even pray, not even to “worship” (which is often for us another “act for Him”)… but when we just settle down to ATTEND to listening to Him, hear His words, hear Him speak. In such moments we enter into a different kind of prayer than our petitions and intercessions, or even our praises. We enter in to “meditation”. We allow the Holy Spirit directly to teach, in His own words, in our own personal language.
It is like “Sunday School” with the One Teacher we need. It is “Tutorial Time”, as God Himself makes sense of the written words of Scripture, and how the living and active Word of God (Jesus) imbues and exhales His Spirit into our being, our lives, our relationships (with Him and with others). This process challenges the mind, stretches the understanding, expands our boundaries… as we grow in our knowledge (and therefore love) of God in all Persons.
This too, this other form of prayer, is an assuredly good thing. Yes.
But from time to time, at first very much at HIS behest, as He teaches us to find stillness, but then as gradually we learn the path to silence, we become ever more welcome into this… this… “garden”… this “meadow”… this “pool” where all is silent, we can come to sense what I can only call God’s very “Pulse”. It seems to reverberate below all else, and when nothing but the resonance of His pulse fills all of our being, it is as if we (as separate) cease to be at all, and all there is is this pulse, this beating heart, which is both Him and us at the same time.
When I first tried to describe this to a friend… this odd “silence”… this “still place”… and the profound effect it seemed to have for me, where there were no words, no quotations, no lessons… just HIM… and that that very HIM-ness was so profound that it left me gasping and changed in ways I did not understand at all and could not describe… that friend responded with these words:
“There is a life and aliveness in silence and stillness that is ‘other than’ the best and richest of life that is sound and action. While there will almost always be, in our waking hours, sound and action – at the center of life there is silence and stillness. We do not ‘go to’ this silence and stillness, we live continually in it and our outward sounds and movements are profoundly informed and changed by it. Outward sounds and movements are important but not essential to our aliveness. It is the silence and complete stillness that houses the well spring of our aliveness, which is Jesus Himself.”
And this also, is a different form of prayer. It has many labels and descriptions, lots of books written about it. But I’m not going to go there because all that contains the implication that these labels denote something “superior”, “higher”, “more advanced”, or even… heaven forbid… “unattainable”.
Once upon a time, (please forgive me), I believed that. I was trained that way, and had not yet learned how corrupt and humanistic so much of my training was.
I have come to realize that all such thinking is rubbish. God IS… God expresses constantly ALL that truly IS.
Here is what seems to be the first and last “complete and true” statement to be made of God…
“God Alone is God in Whom All IS. All that is not God, simply is not.”
There can be nothing beyond God. There can be nothing without God. There is God… or nothing. And “nothing” is not. Nothing, cannot be.
Hence, when Moses asked God who he should say sent him to pharaoh, God accurately (and completely) named Himself… “I AM who AM.” There is no more, or less, that can be accurately said completely to denote God.
We can say many other truthful things, yes. But to be honest, we must always acknowledge that while these may be truthful, they are all partial and incomplete. They are “fragments”, “aspects” of Him. They do not come near to “describing” or “naming” Him in a meaningful way. He is just so much bigger, so much greater, so much more, than we can find any words or concepts to relate for Him.
Only one thing…
Only one way…
Only one means, that I have found, to get near enough to “touch” that One Alone…
Silence… to find the Point of Stillness… to “float” or “drift”… to simply “BE”… in His Ever-Presence… and then halt the mind, the constant interior monologue of thought, question, ponder, wonder, worry, even praise or prayer. To stop the flow of all the words, even for a brief time.
Simply to “Hush”… and “Be”…
This is not an arcane mystical practice, or the effort of decades of monastic asceticism… (or it doesn’t have to be).
This is a simple… “hush”… “Be still, and know… the I AM… God.”
When we dare to seek and embrace the silence… when we seek out not even His words… when we utterly relax in the palm of His hand…
Wait… listen… trust… do you hear it?
Do you hear the Pulse of God? It is there. Just be still, and that Pulse, which is your life, will fill and transform…
That pulse is always there, in the silence, in the stillness, where you may rest and breathe!