I recently attended the wedding weekend of my nephew and his longtime girlfriend. My sister Susan (mother of the groom) gave a toast to the happy couple. Susan was warm, kind, and engaging – and extremely relieved when it was over and she could just sit down and nibble her cheesecake.
One comment she made in the toast stays with me. She mentioned that Martha, the new bride, brought the welcome addition of opinions and a voice to their “family of selective mutes.”
It’s true that my sister’s family is a quiet bunch. Some holiday meals shared with them over the years were punctuated by phrases as rowdy as “More turkey, please” or “Please pass the peas.” So it’s not a gab fest, but I love it. Over the wedding weekend – held at Martha’s family’s ranch in high redwood country in California – my two sisters, our spouses and associated siblings lounged in hammocks, sampled the zingy lemonade and generally got our combined heart rates slowed to a low, chill-axin’ lub-dub. While some of us went skeet shooting or took trail rides, others of us just sat contentedly in the Adirondack chairs and basked in the love.
I heard that the young folk stayed up late partying into the wee hours. And good for them! I’m old enough now to have earned the privilege of snoozing by 11pm without embarrassment.
I have thought about the reality that I’m quieter with my comments at Church these days. Is this just the effect of accumulating years? There are other young Turks (and Turk-ees?) now proclaiming and preachin’ it and keeping our Church family on its toes with lively discourse, much of it in the blogosphere.
It’s not that I’m silent. Anyone who has been in Relief Society or Gospel Doctrine class with me knows I speak my mind and have both a well honed “bull detector” and an impulse to get effusive about Gospel principles I particularly cherish.
Maybe I’m just not as noisy on the inside anymore. I have been through decades of internally wrestling with opinions/doctrines/policies that seem, in my view, not to “further the cause” and sometimes to cause actual harm. I tend not to get as riled, or at least not riled in the same way. I am more and more persuaded that God is a God of incomprehensible love, grace and mercy. I spend much more time trying to figure out how I can fulfill the promise I made while dressed in priestly robes – to build up the kingdom of that kind of God on earth.
It’s not the church as an institution I’m focusing on. It’s the kingdom of God; the Body of Christ; the Gospel of Truth. For me these days railing against some gaffe or discrepancy makes me lose focus. Nor am I willing to insist that everything is just peachy perfect. I’m trying to stay centered, connected to God and to seek peace, inside and out.
Part of my silence is also the by-product of having my words or comments misunderstood or dismissed often enough that holding my own beliefs – privately, intimately – is an act of self-preservation, pain avoidance, and an act of honor.
(Still, ironically, I am here spilling my deep thoughts for all the world to read.)
As often as I’m able I like to attend a university Advent service in Cambridge, MA, where the choir is filled with the voices of angels (however rambunctious they may be as students during the rest of their semester in college). To get a decent seat I have learned to go early. I get my program – handsomely printed on thick, ivory paper.
One year I noticed that the program notes included instruction that as a congregation we were invited to “keep silence” before the program began. It wasn’t a command to “keep silent.” It was an invitation to be an active steward of the silence, the reverence, the expectation of what was to come. Even though it was Advent, it was also an Epiphany for me.
With that understanding, I, too, want to be a “selective mute.” I am engaged in keeping quiet.