It is said that the first language of God is silence. One needs solitude to know oneself before one can take that self to community. All of this I have found to be true and sensible. I have been working on a degree in pastoral studies so I may become a ‘lay ecclesial minister’ for about two years and it has been, and will continue to be, a transformative experience I wanted and needed. Reflection in solitude is a large part of the experience.
A by-product of this journey has been another kind of silence. The more I study, the farther along I get, the less people talk to me about what I am doing, and why I am doing it. Perhaps I am being a bit narcissistic, but it it a very common thing to talk about with someone who is going to college; “what are you majoring in?” is a common a conversation starter as any. This silence is a puzzlement to me.
Perhaps it is shock. The reactions I get from those who know me, especially in my former role as a school administrator of sorts, range from an unbelieving “YOU?!” to a “you are joking, right?”. Those who do not know me seem to respond positively, but then, silence. Both my closest family members, and those who know me in another context such as education do not seem to know where to go with the conversation.
It could be a natural reticence. As a society we do not talk much about religion. Scream about it from time to time, yes, but intelligent discussion on the topic is hard to find.
Maybe it is a sense of being uncomfortable for fear that a ‘religious’ person will somehow be inclined to judge them, or think themselves better. This would be a great irony because, if anything, I am becoming less judgmental and knowing myself better means I know my place is definitely ‘at the bottom, not top, of the table’ as Jesus recounts.
Fortunately I have learned that the most effective way to minister is with my life, not just my words. As one of my texts wryly pointed out, if I do this successfully, nobody will ever remark on it and there will be no earthly reward for it. This is a comfort to me. Trying to live a good life and treating people as I would be treated is a task I can handle, and if it someday leads to a conversation, so much the better.