12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4.12-13)
Silence when used effectively can be a beautiful thing. As a mother of young children, five minutes of silence would mean five minutes of sanity. For my children, the ability to be silent in a game of hide-and-seek means that no one finds your secret hiding place. Silence in music is usually denoted with rests to signal a break between melody, measure, or pattern. When used in meditation, silence can be an opportunity to sit with one’s thoughts – the good and the bad – so that we move closer to self-awareness and let go of thoughts that keep us from moving forward. At my son’s school, they usually begin an assembly with a moment of silence either in remembrance of something or to commemorate peace in the world.
Silence when used effectively can be peaceful, calm, and life-giving. But like with anything good, silence is a double-edged sword. It’s opposite use can be paralyzing, negative, and damaging. Growing up, I have witnessed too many times when my parents who immigrated from Korea in the ’70’s be put in their place as outsiders and foreigners – silenced in their humiliation. As a friend, I have sat up many nights with a friend in the depths of despair and sadness – silenced in her depression. In Korea, I have watched comfort women now in their 80’s who have been silenced by their oppressors, their families, and the government scream audible pain and injustice only to fall on deaf ears. As a pastor, I have held the hand of many grieving the loss of their child, loved one, marriage, dreams, and hope – silenced in their grief. And as a woman and wife, I have experienced my “proper” place of one who should be silent when visiting family back in Korea who still practice the old traditions.
April 15 is the National Day of Silence where many students nationwide will take a vow of silence to bring attention to the silencing effect that many GLBTQ kids experience due to bullying and harassment. On this day, students everywhere have an opportunity to use silence as a powerful tool of protest to the crippling silence that GLBTQ kids go through due to fear, threat, and overall feelings of not being accepted for who they are. In this case, a day of silence can lead to a lifetime of justice and in some cases even save a life. Especially as Christians, we should be in solidarity with all that society has claimed as different or misunderstood. We should stand in silence protesting loudly so that GLBTQ kids can feel safe, accepted, and supported by their community. We should express the kind of love that can heal a wounded heart, mend a hurting soul, and reclaim a loss of identity. Can we as Christians possibly exude this kind of love so that not one more beautiful child of God has to feel like the only answer is ending one’s life — that the only hope for the pain to stop is by not existing at all? Can we as Christians silence destructive behavior and open our ears to those silenced around us?
Last year when my son was in Kindergarten, his class spent the first semester focusing on social interaction. They learned the difference between saying warm fuzzies and cold pricklies. They learned how to resolve conflict using I-statements. They learned empathetic listening. At first, it was hard for me to not be impatient and wonder why my child wasn’t learning algebra yet or writing his first novel, but looking at the world, I’m grateful that his teacher took the time to teach them because Lord knows our society lacks the ability of empathetic listening. I am also grateful that my son had a teacher who is an incredible role model and ironically whose marriage to her partner was misused in the Prop 8 campaign as an example that schools would have to have mandatory field trips to gay marriages if approved.
Watching my son interact with his friends and blessed that my son has a church and school community that nurtures a safe and loving environment gives me hope that my son won’t have to experience the negative effects of silence. But if he does, I have tremendous hope that he is learning tools to not only deal with hurt when it comes his way, but also have the courage to stand with others who are hurting. I’ll be spending that day in silence (unless my kids give me good reason not to) not for peace, not for the quiet, but for justice.
Here is my warm fuzzy to those who are hurting because they have been told or made to feel by others that they are not precious and beautiful: You are precious and beautiful and created amazingly special in God’s eyes.
Here is my cold prickly to all those who allow fear or “different” get in the way and therefore ends up causing hurt and pain: Stop it! Wake up and realize what you are doing!
And lastly, here is my I-statement to the world: I feel sad when every generation you choose to segregate another group of people because of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or whatever you claim as different because it causes unnecessary hurt and pain. Life is hard as it is. I’d appreciate it if you would love yourself a little bit more because by doing so you would have the capacity to love others as well – even those that are different from you or just don’t understand.