I love intellectual stimulation as much as the next wanna be academic but to intellectualise God is not to experience God. Experiential experimentation is not without it's dangers but are we not told that His sheep will know His voice? And having once heard that voice how could it ever be mistaken for anothers?
Like others before me I find it almost impossible to put into words either what I seek in silence or how I encounter God there & why, for me, there is no greater worship than to sit quietly at the feet of He who loved me so much that He died for me & hearken my heart to whatever He might wish to say to me in the silence.
At present I am working my way through Geoffrey Hubbard's Quaker by Convincement & some of his thoughts resound very much with my own ideas.'Our beliefs both sustain us individually & warn us against forcing our own ideas on others; we can show them the way to God, but He will show them the pathway of belief, & since they are not the same person as we are, their belief may well be different to ours to match their personal need.'
Even more so does this resound:..We cling to our direct experience of the eternal (finding)this absolute worked out in living terms in the teaching of Jesus, & then we turn our whole being to trying to follow that teaching.'
To enter into God's silence is to fall naked into the hands of the living God. There is nothing to shield you from God's light & truth ~ no music, no other's prayers, no message however erudite. Nor is this a time to bring my needs & wants before the heavenly throne, though those issues may arise, because the silence is not about me. It is about hearing the still small voice of God, about waiting on His presence.
Nearly all of my Christian life I have not been in a Meeting. I have worshiped in more mainstream churches ~ Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, AOG ~ & I have found God in all of those places. It is like looking in a mirror darkly. Now I am being almost driven ~whilly~nilly ~by the Spirit into the Silences. The only other times I have felt the Spirit in such force is when I have been compelled to give a message & at such times there is no force on earth that can stop you because you do not stand in your own power. I admit to finding it totally bewildering. After all these years, why now?
Why at all? The silences are not a comfortable place to go. As the silence gathers the tears begin to fall, seeping through my pores unbidden, unexpected, for no discernable reason. I have never found a reason for them, or been able to define the emotion they bring. This is not the violent sobbing of repentance, or of grief, but a slow unravelling of the soul sinking with relief at the feet of Jesus.
Quakers have been accused of being mystics. This also bewilders me. It is the most practical of faiths & very much concerned with the world Christ came to save, with being His hands & feet, bringing His love to peple in need. I do not see myself as a mystic. Niave? Maybe. Idealistic? Probably. Practical? Hardly. Mystical? Definitely not. This is not some airy~fairy pie~in~the ~sky experience. It is very concrete.
I can explain it best by telling a story. Not only is this a story about how the silence is very concret in application but about how I am so sure that I heard the voice of Christ & I will always know it again.
Several years ago I was asked to give the Christmas message at church here on the island. All the pastors were away & the rest of the laity wanted a more exciting opportunity or a day they thought they would have a larger congregation. I wasn't overly happy either. Christmas has been done to death. What was there left to say? I'm not a trained preacher, or a clever speaker. I am certainly no theologian. (See my opening paragraph.) I spent a good hour absolutely ranting at God inbetween wracking my brains for some sort of a hook, any sort of a hook, just something I could hang what would be a poorly attended message on. I was not a happy bunny. When I finally shut up & started to listen I got the shock of my life. Now, I am not a mystic but I swear this is true.
While I was sitting glowering at my blank computer screen having a major panic I felt a presence just behind my chair. Thinking it was one of the kids siddling up to me I paid no hede. Then a voice said quietly, ' Like this, Dear Heart.' I will never forget. No~one but no~one calls me Dear Heart. The message Christ gave me was nothing I would ever have come up with on my own because it's central theme was the cross & the need for repentence & that Easter was the purpose & origon of Christmas. I might have been doing the typing but it was Christ dictating the message.
And having experienced God I know the words of the bible to be literally true; His peace doth pass all understanding; God is love; He will lead us & guide us. All I need to do is be still & know that He is God. He will do the rest.