I’ve been trying new spiritual disciplines during lent, and one is silent prayer. As a writer who deals in words all the time, I have been looking for a way to silence what goes on in my head so I can listen to the Spirit. Honestly, I don’t know what to put in my head when I’m not putting together words. Of course, reading and contemplating Scripture is always a way to hear God, and usually I begin in silence and end up in Scripture. But sometimes I find myself using images to help me focus on God and not the noise in my head.
I read a book where a woman equated the human soul to dirt–I am soil waiting for God to plant seeds to grow. I like to garden, so this image stuck with me. Sometimes, when I need to still my noise in prayer, I find myself imagining a plot of dirt. Imagine lying in the lawn looking up–that’s my perspective. Trees are around me. Grass is barely in my line of vision. The sun moves overhead. Rain comes and goes. The only sound is distant running water and the occasional bird. It’s a peaceful image.
I love the book of Genesis. I suspect I spend as much time imagining the world of Genesis as anything else in the Bible. The world was new. What was life like before the flood? What was the garden of Eden like? I would love to glance back and see it.
Now, this is where my visualizing sounds crazy. I promise I’m not channeling past lives or heading into strange New Age waters here. I simply love the idea of visiting the world of Noah or the world of Adam. When the world was huge and the population of people was small. When all of history was ahead. I know sin was there just like it is now, so my image is flawed. But in my head, when I find myself in a pasture somewhere, it’s there in the past. I’m waiting for seeds to grow, alone at the dawn of time, and it feels safe.
And that’s the magic word. Every time I imagine this, I think about safety. I know that Adam’s world lasted. He died a natural death. I have this strange fear of the end of the world. I imagine chaos and evil and destruction. I look at Revelation and shudder. It doesn’t look like a fun time to be alive, and yet it feels more likely every day that I might see that. Sin seems to be winning a lot of battles, and God won’t allow that forever.
So I head back to Adam, when the world was new, when it was possible to wander so far that one could be the first human to see a thing. A world filled with the sounds of birds and animals and wind and water and not man. And I realize the reason I keep going back there, flawed as the image might be, is because I have some trust issues. I want to feel safe. I don’t want to watch the world burn.
There was no safe period of history. I know that. Safety comes from God. That field of silence, rain, safety–that’s Him, not some place in this world, some place in history. I have come back to the 23rd Psalm a hundred times this year, and I realize that is Him, too. God will allow me to feel that safety here, in the midst of the burning, if I will be his lamb and let Him soothe me.
I continue to pray with both words and silence. I continue to wander that garden, that safe plot of soil, to feel the gentle rain, hear the cool waters, nibble in the green pastures. I am learning to trust its reality, to follow the Spirit when he calls me to his peaceful, restful places. Sure, I would still rather not watch the world fall, but I know my place is safe. I can also invite others to that safe place. He has enough green pastures to go around.
Fear doesn’t die easily. Safety isn’t bad–God calls himself a refuge, a rock, a shepherd, a father, all images of safety. I am learning to go to him for safety when fear strikes. I hope you, too, find ways to remind yourself that nothing here in this world has the last word. It will burn, but the pasture with still waters, the rock, the fortress–those are ours, and they will last forever.