For God alone my soul in silence waits, truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honor, God is my strong rock and my refuge.
Put your trust in him always, O People, pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge
I love the words of this psalm, “For God alone my soul in silence waits, truly, my hope is in him…” How much of our lives must we journey outward, desperately trying to establish and secure our lives upon the foundations of financial abundance, vocational satisfaction, love and recognition from others, and the acquisition of fine stuff? At some point, even when some or all of the above is accomplished, the road ends short of achieving the inner sense of inner joy and belonging which we inherently hunger. When or how do we get to the place where we say and experience, “For God alone my soul in silence waits…”
I think one unavoidable factor is age. We are inherently wired to strive outward. It is what the creation story reflects when Adam and Eve are thrown out of the garden of Eden and into the world to scratch out some kind of sustenance through work and toil, together with a sense of purpose through the pains of childbirth and dependency upon another. Most of us must simply grow out of our compulsive restlessness that compels us outward to find meaning, belonging, and satisfaction. We often say a person, ‘mellows” as they age. This mellowing does not have to mean we are just slowing down, it can mean we are more naturally suited for the inner journey. Unfortunately, as Fr. Richard Rohr relates in his book, “Second Half Spirituality.” Too many people only know or are interested in the outward pursuits, and as their physiology continues to limit them from these pursuits, they increasingly feel discouraged and feeble. Instead of discovering a new journey and exploration most available to those who are middle-aged and older, we lament the passing of our youth and the diminishment of our energy.
When we are young we can learn and practice the ways of silence, contemplation, prayer, and simplicity by listening to and learning from those who elder and perhaps wiser. We can keep ourselves from “losing our souls” to the outward pursuits so that we do not find our lives so lost and broken by vain pursuits and burdensome debt, broken relationships, over-responsibility, and compulsive/obsessive behavior. Though there is something “un-natural” about a young man or woman simply sitting, doing nothing, but a young person or adult can give attention to their inner life and seek a sense of fulfillment and belonging from within. As we exit childhood and enter young adulthood, a life becomes busier and busier and the importance of creativiity, quiet rest, and the significance of prayer and meditation are lost to the tyranny of the urgent and the pursuit of “making one’s place in this world” The psalmist pens it well in 119 when he writes, “How does a young man keep his way pure…?” The answer is “By keeping the commandments of God.” For me, a young person can set their life upon the road of blessing and belonging by listening and applying the ancient wisdom that is passed on from each generation and the sacred words recorded in the scriptures. We can learn to come to the quiet, to present our offerings of thanksgiving to God instead of consuming everything for ourselves. We can recognize the divine in ourselves and the divine in all others, even while being compelled outward to compete, compare, and confirm our own sense of place and worth in this world.
The second barrier we must overcome to take the inner journey is our culture. Never in human history has there been so many people wanting so much… for themselves. And of course, it is our own corner and culture of the world that is leading this compulsion. The U.S. economy has become increasingly dependent upon the spending power of youth. Therefore, huge marketing strategies are directed toward diminishing the sense of inner contentment and self image until certain products are bought. The business world recognizes that boomers and busters are increasingly growing out of our own need to have more stuff, but they are also aware that we are very prone to spend money or acquire debt so that our children will feel “special” and loved.
It takes great discipline and inner resolve to resist the over-arching message that we receive from all around us – you need this, you want this, you are pathetic if you don’t have one of these, if you do not drive this. Face it, inner contentment is not very good for an economy such as ours. If people are not out there buying stuff, then we have less people out there selling stuff, and we have less need for people out there making stuff. It’s kind of a cultural obligation to not take the inner journey too soon in life, until we have at least gotten a certain quota of spending money and interest from indebtedness out of you.
When I was just a month from turning 30, I found myself behind closed doors in a little room with bare walls in the company of two other men. One was twenty-two year old real tor who drove a Corvette with personalized license plate, “The Fast One.” The second guy was a twenty-eight year old mortgage lender in a three piece suit looking very powerful. I was the elder in the room at 29 applying for a loan to buy my first house. First came the net worth exercise. “The banker asked, “What your belongings?” Uh, a closet of old clothes – value? Couple hundred dollars. Three old but beloved guitars, 1500 dollars, driving a car that belongs to brother… , 0, some Christmas ornaments given to me from mom, 50.00 and I stopped. At that point they both looked at me with what I felt was ridicule. Then we turned the sheet over to list my indebtedness. The banker again, said, “What is your monthly payments on debt? Nowadays they already know that stuff, and maybe they did then but when they punched my name in their system they probably got a “he doesn’t exist” response. I told them I did not have any debt. “You just finished graduate school”, don’t you have school loans. “You can get loans for school?” My parents kept that secret well hidden.” Ok, credit cards. Nope. So, they said in unison, you are almost thirty years old and you have little stuff and no debt? And at that point I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. You freeloader! I am sure it was all internal but it came from somewhere, didn’t it?
But, with all that I know have along with an excellent and well-earned credit score, is my sense of well being and belonging greater than it was when I was just turning 30 and had little stuff or money to have stuff. The answer is yes, but not because of the stuff, but because of the love, grace, relationship, and purpose that has come along in the past two plus decades. With the exception of the beloved people in my life who have shared their lives with me, along with the treasures of their inner journeys, the real sense of contentment and belonging comes when we can have our moment(s) of silence, and we can rest our souls, and we can find our place of belonging in the presence and person we know as God. For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly my hope is in him.