Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"a murmured prayer…"

"If it be your will,
that I speak no more,
and my voice be still,
as it was before,

I will speak no more
I shall abide until,
I am spoken for
If it be your will..."

Yesterday I was speaking with a friend. We were trying to find a time to meet for lunch this week. I suggested a date and a place. That was when she helped me remember that Wednesday was Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur, directly translates from the Hebrew, into English as, "day of atonement."   My friend reminded me that she would be fasting with her family that day. I apologized for not being more aware, and we made other plans.

Yom Kippur is often referred to as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. It's primary themes are atonement and repentance, forgiveness and redemption. Leonard Cohen wrote, "If it Be Your Will," as his murmured prayer. For many, it has become a sacred offering on this day of atonement -- Yom Kippur.

I love its message of self-surrender and grace.  In these lyrics, Cohen offers up his voice - his song - to God. These are the most precious gifts that he - as a poet/singer/songwriter - has to give to the world.  But he is willing to be silent, if it be His will. 

I have been thinking about this very thing - a lot - lately. I love words. I mean, I really love them. The way they flutter in the heart, pour from the page, tenderly comfort in the dark, strengthen our resolve when facing demons, and encourage us when we feel most alone.

But they are only words -- symbols of something deeper than the language of lips, or paper and ink.  They are not the substance of my relationship with the Divine.  They are only my lisping attempt to describe this relationship.  And as much as I know how unwavering my devotion to God is,  there were times when I have wondered: if God asked me to be silent, would I really be able to hold my tongue and my pen? I pray that I would have the courage and the meekness to yield what delights me, to what delights Him.

A number of years ago, during Yom Kippur, I was preparing the text for a talk I had been invited to give. I was feeling confident about the message. I had humbly listened for direction in setting the tone, and honing the core elements, I'd been asked to address.  I'd typed up the final draft and it was sitting on my desk. I felt peaceful.

That was when a small volume caught my eye on the bookshelf. Its leather cover was worn and supple from use. The lay of its weight in my hand was familiar and comforting. I was drawn towards it. So many of the ideas between its covers had been helpful to me in times of confusion and uncertainty. I let it fall open in my palm and my eyes fell on a paragraph that changed the course of my ministry.

I surrendered my words, to the Word. What I had thought I would share went into the trash, and a new message was born. It was all about trusting.  Trusting that "the kingdom of God is within you…" It fell into place like the petals of a flower unfolding. My contribution to that day would be simple. I would step aside and let God speak to each individual.  I would allow space for sacred silence.

It was a life-shifting moment for me. All desire for a platform, and a voice, dissolved. I sensed a new dance being choreographed -- one of stepping aside and letting the Christ speak intimately, clearly, tenderly, and directly to the heart of each of God's beloved children.

Each year, as Yom Kippur softly lands on my calendar - and I am invited into this space of atonement - I am reminded that this holy oneness is between each of us and God. The cry for forgiveness, mercy, redemption, and reformation is whispered. It is imitate and silent. It is a murmured prayer of hope and surrender.

It reminds me of what I have come to think of as King David's most tender psalm:

"the Lord will hear

commune with your own heart
upon your bed,
and be still.

Sometimes we are asked to be silent. To give up the instrument we feel most confident about in ourselves. To step aside and let the divine Voice speak, sing, pray its message in the most intimate of places - the heart.

We are asked to fast from being anything to anyone -- including ourselves. To humbly empty our hearts of self. To know our emptiness and let it be filled by the real substance of what can only, ever, be a symbol to the human mind.

This evening, as the sun sets, my Yom Kippur prayer is a simple one:

"if it be Your will..."

May your hearts hear the voice of God, and may you find peace.

offered with Love,


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing everything that you have written to date...It is such a balm on the heart...