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Your Brain as a Highway, Part 2 (Silence VII)

Jesus constantly practiced transforming silence.[1] Jesus’ hands, like ours, often filled with anxieties and worries and cares; when that happened, he withdrew to empty his hands and then to slip them back into the hand of God, reminding himself that his Father’s love was enough. He ordered his days and weeks in daily liturgies that kept him open to the whisper of his Father’s voice. This is what a Slow Life of silence is all about: slipping our hands back into the generous hand of the Father. We must learn, through repeated practice, how to do this, recognizing His voice, which makes us strong and secure in our adoption. This is why Henri Nouwen defines prayer as simply “Listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’”[2]

The creation of new highways in our brain can be laborious work. We crave stability, and we hate letting go of something that we’ve felt certain about, even if it’s something that keeps us miserable. That means that, as strange as it may sound, we may struggle letting go of our voices of self-hatred. We may be addicted to their familiarity, even if we abhor them. There is always suffering in following Jesus, even if it’s the suffering of letting go of what brings us misery.

Furthermore, our resolve will be tested, just as Jesus was tested.[3] Right after Jesus’ baptism, Satan tempted him three times, with hedonism (bread to fill his hunger), with egoism (jumping off the temple to be caught by God, demonstrating how great he was), and with materialism (wealth and kingdoms), asking him in essence to doubt that the Father’s love was enough to satisfy him. Just as it was with Adam and Even in Genesis 3, Satan tempted Jesus to trust some thing other than the love of God. In fact, this is the way that Satan tries to tempt us all, because pushing us to doubt the love of God is really the only tool he has to use against us. Each time, Jesus used Scripture to slip his hand back into the Father’s hand, saying, in essence, “I believe the story that my Father tells above anything else, and that’s enough.”

The work of spiritual life is often a process of discerning God’s voice—and discerning what is not God’s voice—and then of making a ruthless commitment to trust God, even when that may not seem like enough. This sort of ruthless trust is always transformative, if we will see it all the way through.

For more on this and other transformational topics, click here.

[1] See, for example, Luke 5:16 and Jesus’ habit of withdrawing at important or anxious moments, to pray, such as in Matthew 26:36ff.

[2] Henri Nouwen. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. HarperOne, 1997. Reading for January 13th.

[3] Matthew 4:1-11.