Sunday, January 4, 2015
Filling in the Blanks, or Not
As I clean up and clean out this week, I keep looking at this blank chalkboard on my mantle. Christmas verse now erased away, I am thinking of this new year stretched out in squares—- 30 or so at a time, 12 pages. I’m not ready to put anything on my chalkboard, nor do I wish to fill in any blank spaces, nor am I ready to crack open those pages to see what they already hold. I kind of know, but I am not ready to get really familiar with it yet. This first week of 2015, I am enjoying the “blank”, as contrived as it may be.
You can’t read a book or see a movie like Unbroken without talking about it. My mom demonstrated that a few years ago when she finished the book— telling me all about it to the point I felt like it would silly for me to read it. Then, Jeff’s brother read it and he recounted it all in more detail as we sat on the beach with him one summer. I felt VERY familiar with Louie Zamperini’s story. I was a fool. Once the movie was announced, I felt I needed to read the book. After the first few pages, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. And then I understood why people have to talk about it. Jeff heard all about it. I read him page after page after page of things so unreal, I could not keep it to myself. I could not. You must read it. You must see it. The book fills in all the holes of which the movie is full, but the film is excellent -it’s just not the complete story. Anyway, one of the hundreds of things I found intriguing about the men afloat the rafts is how the time and silence affected their brains and memories.
Laura Hillenbrand writes— so wonderfully, I might add, “Given how badly the men’s bodies were faring, it would seem likely that their mind, too, would begin to fail. But more than five weeks into their ordeal, both Louie and Phil were enjoying remarkable precision of mind, and were convinced that they were growing sharper every day.”
“Louie found that the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge. He had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was. Here, drifting in almost total silence, with no scents other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving but the slow procession of the shark fins, every vista empty save water and sky, his timed unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it. In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple. He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about.”
Does anyone else find that fascinating? He and his pilot, Phil, would quiz each other, telling stories to the most minute detail, describing recipes and entire meals being prepared and teaching songs to one another. Their memory “became infinitely more nimble, reaching back further, offering detail that had once escaped him.”
There are moments in the book that are hard to explain if you don’t use God to explain them. His protection, His mercy, His holding out hope to Louie, His Presence— and this clarity of mind, this deep focus, I believe, all of these were a gift to him.
I am seriously NOT interested in being on a raft for 47 days and traveling 2000 seemingly aimless miles, but what Louie experienced in his thoughts reminded me of the mystery- and power- of being quiet, pulling away from all the distractions for a period of time. For anyone. Just a few hours even. Definitely, a discipline. For our minds to be “freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed upon it” might seem impossible for anyone living today in “normal” circumstances. We cannot escape it. Civilization is good. Men have died for it. We have responsibilities and commitments— God-given— good, life giving things. But we can learn quietness, trust and rest.
Burden and constraint come with civilization, but God also tells us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Also, the prophet Isaiah spoke these words, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”
Will I have some of it? Will you? There is something strong and good and right about being quiet. About resting. We speak much of repentance but do we speak as much of rest? Rest for our souls? Unusual, powerful things — things to which we aren’t accustomed— happen when we pull away for periods of time to find quiet. To turn a thought about. To ponder. To hear from our Heavenly Father. To get our marching orders for the day, the year. To remember details of things we have been taught in the past. To see new insights into a favorite Scripture.
My chalkboard is blank. My calendar, like yours, is not. However, in those pages of 2015, I am committed to finding rest for my soul, to feel the strength that comes from trusting in Him, to experience quietness in my spirit with Him. I want some of it. Do you?