But when we’re with those we feel less than secure with, we use words to “adjust” our appearance and elicit their approval. Otherwise, we fear our virtues might not receive adequate appreciation and our shortcomings might not be properly “understood.” In not speaking, we resign how we appear (dare we say, how we are?) to God.
(Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines).
I am honored to be called to a vocation that, so to speak, puts my reputation on the line, daily. I was naïve enough, early in my ministry, to assume that if I was kind, loving, and sincere, certainly all my Christian brothers and sisters would think well of me. I learned quickly that is not the case, at times. I learned, in fact, that I was being challenged to give up neediness to protect my reputation. I experienced that regardless of what I did or said, did not do or did not say, my character and action would not stand the test of some persons.
As a pastor and person, I have learned and am learning the gracefulness to accept with humor different person’s responses and reactions to me. That has been a gradual process, bathed in much prayer.
A primary Means of Grace in helping me to grow more in detaching from need to focus on protecting reputation has been Silence. Richard Foster, in his reflections on writing by the late John Main, who was founder of the Christian Meditation movement in the 20th Century, writes:
Through the discipline of silence, then, we are learning to place our reputation in God’s hands. We no longer need to be sure everyone understands us or thinks well of us. We let go of even needing to know what they think of us. We are silent.
(Spiritual Classics, Ed. Richard J. Foster, Emilie Griffin)
In Silence we learn to relax in the Presence who says in our deepest being, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (St. John 14.18, ESV). We learn to receive, passively and trustingly, the One who makes it possible for us to affirm: “Surely goodness and faithful love will always be with me, and I will live in the House of the Beloved always” (Psalm 23.6, Author’s Translation).
Silence is an affirmation that in our passive, loving openness to the Spirit, Love is ever-present and affirming our beauty and goodness in the eyes of the Beloved One.
1. How might Silence help you deal graciously with those who disagree with you or do not like you?
2. What might be meant by “passive, loving openness” in Prayer?
3. Have you considered that “Love is ever-present and affirming” your “beauty and goodness in the eyes of the Beloved One”? How might accepting this high esteem Spirit has for you help in releasing neediness to protect your esteem before others?
4. For one week, set aside some time daily, preferably at least ten minutes each in the AM and PM, for Silence. Unplug the phone or get out of hearing of it; if you have a cell phone with you, turn it off. Do not speak; do not listen to anything. Simply be. Begin the time with a prayer, affirming that you are present to spend time with God. Ask God to bless the time. At the end, pray again, giving thanks for the Silence and vowing to God that you will be back later to enjoy more Silence in His Presence.
5. Sit in Quiet, with eyes closed for five minutes. Do only one thing, other than breathe: smile.
Spirit of Love, so consume me in Your Love that my pleasing You shall dissolve any neediness to please anyone in any way that would not please You. Amen.
Brian's book of mystical love poetry, An Ache for Union, can be ordered through major bookdealers.
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