I’ve been a preacher for nearly 25 years—occasionally I’ve had a bit of a break. But for a long time I’ve followed the discipline of letting the biblical text challenge and convert me every week so that I could say something about the good news—something that I hoped was worth listening to. But some months back I began to realize that I shouldn’t keep preaching. At that point I was preaching in different locations just about every Sunday—doing what is known as “supply” work in my denomination. (Such a sad, sort of economic term for officiating at a celebration of the Eucharist and preaching). This realization about preaching didn’t come over me suddenly, although I finally got very clear about it one day after a person in a congregation called me on an example I’d used that seemed to her to set a whole group of people up for criticism—most likely unwarranted. I didn’t entirely agree with her, but realized that I needed to pay attention: there was a deeper reality to be addressed. I simply didn’t have much to say as a preacher.

Oh, I’ve been through dry times before. And having stayed up late at night, woken up in the middle of the night finally “getting it,” I’ve preached well and not-so-well.  I’ve even written a sermon on my way in the door—the whole gamut. This was different. It is different. I simply don’t have much to say. That is most probably why I have been so silent on this blog during the last months. As my friend Bill pointed out to me, I haven’t made an entry since last year. (“December,” I said. But that was beside the point.)

Recently at an informal gathering of clergy women I wondered aloud about all the things we spend time doing in churches—how many of them actually invite folks into the mystery of God’s love? We talked a bit about how hard it is in the church to actually be present to God. One pastor at the table said simply, “How sad.” I was silent. Over the years I’ve grown increasingly drained by the most familiar “explanations” of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection. My tradition is one that places a high value on order—not much spontaneous happens in worship. But often, the many well-crafted words spoken in worship seem to me to be so pitifully inadequate or misleading. I read somewhere that Aquinas once said, ”I have seen things that make all my writings seem like straw.”  Not that I’ve seen things so clearly, but even my intuitions lead me to silence these days.

Many years ago I pronounced a blessing over a woman, ending my prayer with the words “in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” She drew back, angry, and told me with complete certainty, ”I don’t need redeeming!” (So much for more inclusive language.) Now I think perhaps I understand her point—at least what it might have been—she didn’t explain at the time. What she needed maybe was not someone to redeem her from her sins as though she were damaged merchandise, but someone to open her heart to God. I was silent then. And am more so now.

Not that we don’t have darkness within us. I am aware of at least some of my own—and my efforts over the years to deny, bury, control my darknesses. Yesterday morning as I drove to worship I got on the road behind an open pick-up truck pulling a little trailer. Both were piled high with stuff: some of it significant, weighty, furniture, a mattress, a chair, and all kinds of other stuff thrown in too, trashcans, pillows, rugs, miscellaneous items. The truck had one rope tied around it, and there was one around the trailer too. One rope holding all the stuff in place. I wondered to myself, “Surely he (it was a he) won’t drive that on to the freeway.”  But of course he did. And the instant he picked up speed, the stuff started flying all over the freeway, trashcans, pillows, boxes, flying free. Jettisoned. It was something to see. I had to laugh.

But then I fell silent.

I’d caught a vision of my own interior life. I’ve been getting rid of material stuff for a number of years now. I live a lot leaner than I once did, but inside me there’s still all kinds of stuff—some light, some dark, some weighty, some not so. In his book Things Hidden, Richard Rohr uses the metaphor of Noah’s ark to talk about how God is in the business of holding. Holding it all together. Encompassing it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. The animals you’d expect to eat each other alive. The parts I’d like to hide or hide from: anger, judgment, grief, jealousy, fear. . . The parts like generosity and kindness that are there too. My own little ropes, tied by my own devising and hard work are pretty pitiful when I get out in the real world: stuff is always falling out, being jettisoned, and sometimes in public no less.

Oh, I trust that I will let go of what needs letting go of as I am more deeply transformed by God’s love. (Maybe that was a Pentecostal wind that blew all that stuff out onto the freeway)  But, inside the truck and the trailer is an important place—there in the holding together—the meeting of the opposites, the enduring withness, the bearing of the truth of who I am, who we  are—there is where my life is being deepened. The school of love is found in facing the other, the other outside me and the other within me. In the what is-ness.

I think that is where I am these days. I am just trying each day to live more deeply into what this divine holding might mean. The implications are more than words can hold. I knew a priest once, a mystic really, who toward the end of his life would only celebrate the Eucharist in silence. Without a word. Maybe that’s where I’m headed.