Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Quiet Peace: The Wordless Word

About the author: Brian Marsh is co-pastor at First Presbyterian Church Missoula, in Missoula, Montana. 
‘Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of Love.’ ~Frederick Buechner

it was not a silent night. nor a holy night. all was not calm. all was not bright.

it was a freezing winter’s night in Princeton, NJ. i had moved my family 3000 miles east…far away from the only home i had ever known…uprooted from a community of faith that we loved and a vocational calling in which i thrived. and there i sat huddled in my old La-Z-Boy recliner, clutching a blanket that was failing in its attempt to shield me from the cold that was drifting into our tiny apartment, and through my shivering skin into the cavernous voids in my heart, my psyche, my soul.

the deep darkness of depression that had become an old friend had re-awakened within me…in grieving the loss of all i had left behind in my life in California…in struggling with my sense of self in the absence of any ways of performing professionally, and thereby proving my worth as a person…in wrestling with the old voices of shame and self-recrimination that re-emerge from the depths of my being in times of transition and uncertainty.

but i hadn’t come to talk with my old friend again…my old friend was holding me hostage, ranting and raving at me with a force that shook the old chair in which i was sitting and the battered foundations of the world in which i was living. the tears streaming down my face were the only semblance of warmth to comfort my shaking self, and they turned cold within second of leaving my eyes.

my sobbing must have been quite loud, because after a few minutes, I heard a door from down the hallway gently creak open and the soft patter of footsteps coming towards me. it was my son, Ian, who was four years old at the time. he peered around the corner wondering what was making that strange and sad sound. and seeing me in my disheveled state, he raced over to me, jumped in my lap, wrapped his arms around me, and silently enfolded me in pure, unconditional love.

he didn’t say a word to me…not because he didn’t know what to say, but because he literally couldn’t. Ian has autism, and at that time had no expressive language. but I didn’t need words…i just needed a comforting, accepting, loving presence. and that’s what i got from Ian (and what i get from him every day). his presence to me in that moment was a beautiful and powerful reflection of the One who came to us as a silent, vulnerable little child…a crying comforter, a helpless healer, a language-less lover, a wordless Word that became flesh so that our flesh could become Word.

and so, in the arms of my little living reflection of the wordless Word, the night grew silent and holy…my body and soul were calmed…the darkness was illumined by a tiny shaft of Light…and we drifted off to sleep in heavenly peace.