Most Monday mornings, I head over to River of Life church in Athlone and spend a couple of hours in worship.
It’s a Pentecostal church, which may not be your thing, but most of the time we sit in total silence. No handclapping, dancing or anointed handkerchiefs in sight (or sound).
I love it.
And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that that is where I really connect with God and where –which may be more important- God connects with me. I feel nourished and loved and filled. It’s the spiritual equivalent of one of those Big Breakfasts (for which I have to express a sneaking fondness).
Most times there’s some quiet music playing. Sometimes someone will pray out loud or sing along. But mostly we just listen.
Imagine that. Just listening.
I’m trying to understand here why that time on Monday morning is so valuable to me, and so powerful an impulse towards a week living with a God-awareness.
I guess the main reason is simply that it goes against the grain of my normal way of living. Stephen Covey once said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” To refuse that “right to reply” is to challenge something right at the centre of who I am (unfortunately).
You see, to be brutally honest, I live as if I’m the centre of this whole life thing. Everybody does, more or less. Sometimes we get tugged into the awareness of a partner’s needs, a child’s hurt, a friend’s problem, but even then there’s a certain amount of travelling from where we are to where they are.
But to wait, to listen, to give up that central position…
For two hours each Monday, I renounce my right to reply, and somehow I awaken to a different reality, where I am not centre-stage. That’s where I touch eternity, where I experience the real.
That’s where I hear the silence.
On Mondays, it seems to me that sin is not a blockage between me and God at all, so much as a journey in the wrong direction. As if you’re hoping the bus will come but you’re hopelessly gazing in the wrong direction.
But does that mean giving up on who I am? Does it mean renouncing my own personality?
It’s a very unfashionable line to take, but on Mondays, it seems so. My ego is so strong, you know? It is proud and determined. It seems absolutely indestructible. And yet for a little while, when the volume of the world is turned down for a while, it’s as if I’m getting myself ready to listen, ready to “lay down my life, take up my cross, and follow….” What on earth does that mean if it doesn’t mean such a denial of self?
James Packer’s Knowing God is a classic of modern spirituality. He wrote this on the theme of waiting on God, particularly when you are agitated by the rush of circumstances:
“And those who wait on him will never be disappointed. “Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”
I need to underline a couple of sentences for myself here. Feel free to borrow.
When in doubt, do nothing….
When action is needed, light will come.
I think that that’s what my Mondays are all about.
Voltaire once said: “We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.” As if the big Thing is just over there, out of reach. Waiting to begin.
But what he didn’t understand was that the real thing is going on right here, beneath the white noise of our desires and expectations. Waiting to be heard.
Maybe we learn most when God keeps us waiting.
Maybe that’s the only way I can come to the point of praying “Thy will be done.”
Otherwise I just get completely wrapped up in the idea of having MY will done. In my head I carry a shopping list of all the things I want to see happen. Everybody has those lists. Next to our To Do list, our bucket list, our Hit List, our Guest List, our Black List. We are never listless, our minds are active, restless, conniving, determining, reaching for what we want, like spoilt toddlers in a pick ‘n mix sweet store.
And then Monday comes and I learn to be still again.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray Thy Will be done.
But it takes continuous application.
Because Monday mornings means that I have to be ready to bear uncertainty, and to keep my unanswered questions unanswered.
Of course, I begin with my lists, the thousand things that surge around my brain like iron filings on a blank page, until the sure pull of the magnet brings them into order. Into a pattern.
If I am to wait on God, am I like a waiter waiting on a customer?
It’s not a matter of waiting until God pays me some attention so that I can submit my shopping list, but waiting on God, alert, attentive with no agenda of my own, just ready to do he wants.
‘My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.’ (Ps. 62:5 KJV)
On Mondays I find my security in him. I gather confidence, I develop trust, I learn to hear his voice and distinguish it from all the others.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always restless, always resistant.
But as I wait, and listen I find my peace again. Remember the old hymn? This is for my Mondays at River of Life.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.