In our upcoming book, What Does Your Soul Love?, I shared a few nuggets of wisdom from one of my mentors, Abbot David Geraets (1935-2012). But there’s one I did not put in the book and I’d like to offer it to you today.
I had the pleasure of having Abbot David as my spiritual director when I attended his school for spiritual directors. I had learned that he was an expert in working with dreams, so I brought in a binder full of dreams that I had been recording since 1993. At the time it was 2005. Over the course of our meetings he was patient as we blasted through most of twelve years of my unconscious process.
So much was happening deep within me during that season of being under his training. So much so that Abbot David gave me some gracious counsel. He said that if something important or special happens inwardly, at the hand of the Holy Spirit, don’t be too quick to share it with others. If you do so, it can lose its potency. A kind of dissipation occurs with too many words and when something hasn’t matured within us.
I tucked that counsel away and have brought it to mind many times. It is true, when something stays in my journal, undiscussed, it has a way of sinking deeper inside me. The changes are personal and meaningful.
I have to confess, however, that I don’t always do this. I am a verbal processor, so I quite often speak out what I am seeking to solidify in my own mind. I have noticed that speaking does, in fact, dissipate some of the personal importance of a work of the Spirit.
Abbot David was in good company. Let’s see what Henri Nouwen has to say about the discipline of silence and how it tends the fire of the Spirit’s work within us.
Silence guards the inner heat of religious emotions. This inner heat is the life of the Holy Spirit within us. Thus, silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive. Diadochus of Photiki offers us a very concrete image: "When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good. Thereafter the intellect, though lacking appropriate ideas, pours out a welter of confused thoughts to anyone it meets, as it no longer has the Holy Spirit to keep its understanding free from fantasy. Ideas of value always shun verbosity, being foreign to confusion and fantasy. Timely silence, then, is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts." (Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, emphasis mine)
You might want to read that again. It is dense with meaning. I bolded the phrases that I think draw out what Abbot David meant.
Have you ever shared an inside joke with a best friend or your spouse? A single look at just the right moment and you both know exactly what the other is thinking. I wonder if this discipline of silence can be like that with God. Only you and he know what is going on and it makes it even more special and personal to share it
And the added bonus is that the kind of silence that holds closely the inner work of God actually leads to wisdom. And wisdom is something to be shared...at the right time...in the right way. This is something to which I aspire. How about you?
A PRAYER FOR THE DISCIPLINE OF SILENCE
Help me, Lord, to keep your work hidden in my heart like Mary, treasuring and pondering it. When and if it becomes time to share with others, may the potency remain. And help me to know when something is just for you and me. Thank you. Amen.