Monday, May 26, 2008

Ending the Silence

Growing up in the Plymouth Brethren silence echoed through my life. As a woman I was to be silent with my head covered. This I could and did endure. I thought it made God happy and I lived most of my childhood in confused silence spiritually.

The other enforced silence that few acknowledge is the silence of God. God's written word is THE ONLY way God speaks/spoke to His followers and any supernatural interaction is strictly exposed to be that of self-seekers and people who's faith just wasn't strong enough to "get in the Word". This was the silence that stalked me. This was the silence that confused.

Because you see, if you place a child in silence long enough God meets them there. In those hours of enforced quiet in church, three times a week I learned silence - but God somehow didn't know the rules. Far too often He kept me company, a willing companion alongside my dumbness.

I quickly learned in my teen years that this was not acceptable and spent most of the rest of my adult life in fear of mental illness for "hearing voices" or swallowed in the shame of self importance - who did I think I was that I was so special that God would speak to me? I quickly learned that those silent times needed to be filled with fantasy and day dreaming to keep my mind from sinning and hearing God.

Silence can be golden, but this silence was the shiny, stainless-steel of a bullet that lodged itself in my soul.

The tight fist of control this sect enforced had squeezed the life out of me, it had convinced me that I was completely broken. Born into the wrong body, given the wrong gifts and suffering under the delusion that I was either crazy or so puffed up that God would love me just like He did Moses or Peter - enough to show himself to them, and me. My shame was magnificent and as shiny as that silver bullet of enforced silence.

After we were kicked to the curb in our at the end of our first paid ministry at a Brethren church we were free, we didn't know it yet, but the violence of that encounter would have been the only thing that would have severed our commitment and devotion to that small sect of faithful believers. We loved them. They were our life. They are not mean, evil people, just sincere fellows laboring under a very heavy load of really ugly theology. It is a mean God they serve, and we loved him too, but we were now free we began to explore the big, wide world of the church.

We had spent our whole lives judging other Christians and faith systems. We truly believed WE were the only ones with THE TRUTH and the others were just playing games with their faith and God.

What a wide world exists on the other side of that door. We had no idea how vast and varied the kingdom of God truly was. I am unable to say that every experience we had was grand and glorious. We were still us and that boat we sailed just couldn't seem to stop rocking. We made many friends and found much grace and eventually floated that boat to the shore of a community of true folk. Honest people who don't take themselves so seriously, but do take God seriously. They are all such individuals - no homogenization here.

We had spent our lives trying to look like those around us, chipping away and folding ourselves up - but to no avail, we were horrible at being anything but ourselves. Here we found characters, I guess it's the ocean air - but as we saw each individual honored for their uniqueness and loved for their quirks we realized that we were home. Finally home.

Here we can be us. I can be me. I am so very different than anyone that I have ever met. I have found many kindred souls along the way - but there was just too much Heidi to "knock off" to fit into the cookie cutter. And here I am loved. Truly loved. Quirks and all. I am amazed and honored to be a part of this small group of people who think really B.I.G. thoughts.

This Sunday I will be preaching. It's not the first time, but somehow it feels like it because they know me now. They've lived life with me and they still asked me to teach. You see, I am a teacher. Silence inflicted on those of us who are teachers is brutal. Long ago I was told that if a man learned something from me, as a women, it meant that I was usurping creation order, not that I was a good teacher.

This Sunday I will be given the honor of standing in front of a room of the most unique people - and telling my story. Talking about story and using what God has gifted me with to play my part in this body of believers.

I opened my email this morning to this quote from Margaret Wheatley - it's where I got the blog title from. I didn't awaken with any intention of writing this post - but when I read these words I realized that I was truly beginning this process publicly, in my community face to face, and so following with my virtual community seemed fitting too.

Silence is a beautiful thing, I now embrace it fully as a time to meet with God. I now know that when he speaks to me that I am not crazy, it is a gift and I honor it as such. And I also know that breaking the silence by using the other gift He's given me is just as important.
A gesture of love is anything we do that helps others discover their humanity. Any act where we turn to one another. Open our hearts. Extend ourselves. Listen. Any time we're patient. Curious. Quiet. Engaged.... Conversation does this---it requires that we extend ourselves, that we open our minds and hearts a bit more, that we turn to someone, curious about how they live their life.

Speaking to each other involves risk. It's often difficult to extend ourselves, to let down our guard, especially with those we fear or avoid. When we're willing to overcome our fear and speak to them, that is a gesture of love. Strangely, what we say is not that important. We have ended the silence that keeps us apart.
Ending the silence out of love is right and good. When it divides and keeps us apart silence is anything but golden.


Matt said...

Thank you Heidi. What a pleasure it is to see God's hand of grace on your life. I would so enjoy sitting able to sit under your teaching, I wish I could be there.

With love in Christ,


Wes said...

...I'll second Matt's "I wish I could be there!"

...SO GOOD to read your post this AM good you escaped "the sect" (...which had me smiling on that one!) good to experience you coming more alive good.......

...thank you for your courage in what you wrote this morning

...and next Sunday?

...give 'em heaven!!!

Hope said...

An incredible post by an incredible woman!! Beautiful.

markpetersen said...

Tears in my eyes... thank you Heidi. I love it when we are escorted beyond our narrow upbringings and emerge into the reality of God being filled with love for the whole world - not just our marginal sect. What a journey of freedom, a story of breaking out. And it all needs to happen as we break silence, as we break bread, together. Food for living.

wilsonian said...


Heidi Renee said...

I have tears here as well - your comments touch the deep broken places where fear resides in me Matthew, Wes, Hope, Mark & Erin. What gifts your words are to me. They are confirmation - those nay-saying voices are still strong in my life and when I doubt I will return here to quiet them. - THANK YOU.

Northwest said...

I'd love to hear you deliver your message. If it is half as eloquent as this post, the parishioners will be richly rewarded.

Decades in fundamentalist bible churches, Evangelical Free churches, and southern Baptist churches left me with a diminished sense of self as well.

Even after I quit "doing church" I could not quite grasp the psychological toll fundamentalism had taken on me. But I knew enough to become angry at God for his ridiculous, stilted, self-emolating religion.

But thankfully He is never done with us, when we are with Him. And so I have come to be "found" by God again, with an extra dollop of grace thrown in so I can move past a wretched religious legacy.