“Are you satisfied that you are at the destination?” My co-instructor asked this question of the two women standing in front of us. It was an early evening a few days into a 6-day challenge expedition for a group of families doing pre-field training to prepare for the mission field. The women looked at each other with uncertainty. They had given evidence in each of the 4 cardinal directions, with 3 of the directions coming easily. One obvious piece of evidence given had been a very large, clear, beautiful blue spring that emerged at the base of a steep bluff to our South. Despite the obvious signs South, their evidence to the East had proven less clear and there remained a twinge of uncertainty. The question that had been issued seemed to come as a shock to the two women who looked at each other nervously. One of them hesitated, then stated, “I guess I thought that you would confirm that we were at the right place.” “Why do you need confirmation from us, you just gave your evidence, what would our input change?” my co-instructor pried. After a moment’s thought, the other woman replied, “Well, I guess it would just help me feel more secure about what I already know”.
As an instructor, I often find myself challenged by the very concepts and questions we ask participants to help facilitate their reflection and awareness in the midst of adversity on these expeditions. How often have I longed for or even sought out affirmation from another in order to gain some form of security for myself? And often I think I need the affirmation because I do not trust that I am really worth loving. When it comes to love, words are the primary tool I use to communicate love to others and the primary way I desire to receive love from others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving affirmation or speaking words to others in order to communicate value and worth. However, when we live from the place of our own deep fear of inadequacy, we can start thinking that we need another’s words to confirm to us that we are enough. Just as those two women felt that they needed us to confirm to them what they already knew was true. Our lack of confirmation (or silence) was not a condemnation or judgment of their failure, it was a belief that they could be entrusted to perform the tasks necessary to get their group to their next destination.
I often find myself thinking that God’s silence is a condemnation or judgment of me. I’m not doing enough to please Him, so He is withholding Himself. Let’s face it, I think that about others too. If I go for a few days without connecting with a good friend, I think they must be upset with me or that they don’t want to be around me anymore. I’ve seen it create insecurity for couples in a new dating relationship. Lack of communication or contact can create fear that maybe the other person has become disinterested or doesn’t like them anymore. We can experience silence or lack of communication as a rejection of us.
What if God’s love went beyond words? What if I was secure enough in God’s love for me to know that He is with me even when I cannot hear Him? What if God’s silence is not a condemnation of me, but is instead a communication of His trust in my love? Can I be fully satisfied with God’s presence alone? David Benner in his book Opening to God puts it this way “…when someone is known in love, words become less and less necessary in order to maintain presence to the other…Intimacy demands that talk be balanced by attentive openness in silence, and only as this happens do we begin to know the deeper communion of shared presence that no longer depends on words.” As we grow in relationship with God and others, we can learn to trust that love is less about what we do or say and more about who God is and who He says we are. That lack of communication or contact that once led to insecurity, can lead us to the only One who can fully satisfy.
This concept of knowing I am loved beyond words has never been more vibrant to me than as I have wrestled with the sudden change brought on by my mom suffering a stroke. As with most stroke victims, the deficiencies and limitations she experienced were unclear at first. As time went on, we discovered that her primary struggle was with communication. She was struggling to find the words to say what she wanted to say. Since I live a good distance from my mother, calling to talk to her on the phone has been my primary method of communicating with her and letting her know that I am thinking of her. So, I found myself feeling insecure, calling her almost daily in order to let her know that she is loved by me. I began to notice through this time that while I was worried about whether or not she would feel loved by me, I was actually growing increasingly insecure about my own felt sense of being loved by her. As I began to look at this insecurity, I realized that my fear came from my desire for her to communicate and confirm to me what I already know. That she loves me, even when she can’t say it. I know that she prays for me daily, looks forward to my visits and calls, and has never stopped loving me.
I desire to grow in trusting that being with God is enough. He loves me period. He doesn’t need to keep saying it for me to trust and know I am fully loved and that His love for me won’t change. 1 John 3:18-20 says it this way: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
Lord Jesus, may I know Your love in the depths of my heart. May I trust in the truth that I am Your child and I do not need to say or do anything to gain or earn your acceptance and love. Help me to learn to walk in the security of simply being in Your loving presence that is beyond words. And may Your loving presence overflow into my love for others as I learn to love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.