In Part I of this series we discussed the problem of spiritual delusion and darkness as a consequence of the lack of a God-ward self-knowledge. The purpose of this awareness is simply this: To reveal the sin(s) that hinder our relationship with God and that keep us from the fullness of God’s person, love, and provision for us in this life and the life to come. As well, we desire to respond to this great love by a life of devoted service to him and for him for all eternity. To do this, we need to identify the barriers to growth and pursue those things that propel us deeper into the heart of God.
In our first post, we established – through our brake light analogy – that that there are things we cannot know unless someone else reveals them to us. So then, how is it possible that we can discover these challenges within our soul on our own? Doesn’t “self” knowledge imply we have that knowledge within our grasp? The answer is no… and yes. A God-illuminated self-knowledge is often beyond our reach, but we can work to acquire it with the help of the Holy Spirit and others. In fact, only with this help can we ever hope to really grow to the degree that God desires for us.
So, what are the key elements necessary for one to begin the lifelong quest to understand ourselves in the context of God and develop the ability to route out those soul-tainting defects that hold us from fully loving and being loved by him?
Silence: The noise and relentless busy-ness of modern life is a blight on our souls and a favored tool of the enemy to drown out the still small voice of God. Often we welcome this evil ambiance in order to to hide from the thoughts and feelings that cause us pain and anxiety. As with substance abuse, hiding from our thoughts and avoiding the discomfort of quiet doesn’t solve anything. Similarly, ignoring the signs of a serious illness like cancer allows the disease to progress unchecked in our bodies. So too, our hidden (or not-so-hidden) faults promise the same result in our souls. Silence is one of the most basic elements necessary for us to come face-to-face with these issues, with God, to hear his voice, and see our way clear to healing and growth. In the classic Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis reveals a demonic diatribe (a senior demon on a rant to an apprentice demon) about the value of noise to the enemy of our souls. An important side note here is that when the demon is talking about music he is speaking about sacred music:
Music and silence–how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell–though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express–no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end! We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down in the end!
For most in modern society the enemy’s plan has worked. Between tweets, texts, telephone calls, TV, Internet, radios, computers and iPods, we wake up to noise, we are inundated with noise as we move through the day, we get in our cars and turn on the noise, we work with the noise in the background, we leave work with noise in our cars again, we return home to noise. Where in all this noise will we find God? How can we hear the voice of God when our hearts, minds, and hearing are constantly bombarded by the endless “noise” of modern life?
The truth is, we can’t. There is no way around this problem. We may limit the noise to those things compatible to our faith like contemporary Christian music or great programming like EWTN; however, regardless of the degree of piety or putrification we allow to occupy our souls, there is no way we can claim to hear God if we don’t first create space to listen to him in silence.
In Part III, we will explore exactly what we mean by silence and begin to identify ways we can incorporate it into our lives.
Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him
Art for this post on self-knowledge and the spiritual life: Young Girl Singing in a Mirror, Jean-Ètienne Liotard, 18th century, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.