Hospitals were always my least favoured destinations until I finally understood that there are many people there who are frightened, lonely, bored, alone, feeling less than human, or angry. I never really enjoyed being in hospitals when my children stayed, for instance. I always felt so useless, as if I could hardly make a difference. But then I reflected on the little things I could and would do to support the person I knew in hospital. I learned that, though I was bored, I could be of great support just by being there.
There is power enacted in acts of silence. When we commit to being with somebody in a hospital, or in some other undesirable place, and our commitment is not based on anything we can gain, God speaks.
In the silence of our acts, God speaks and God is glorified.
The practice of somebody sitting with a person who has just lost a partner or child, or somebody close to them, and being committed to sitting without uttering a word, is the blessed practice of sitting Shiva. Their whole focus is on silent, practical support, understanding that a person’s acute grief cannot be cajoled.
Such is the need for being with a terminal cancer patient, or being there with or for the family. In some ways we may feel useless, because ‘our work’ has very little of us in it. But the less there is of us the more there may be of God.
One of the best investments within the relational context is to be prepared to give time. When we are extravagant with our time with those who need us, God speaks.
The less we say, the more God speaks.
Sitting Shiva—the Jewish custom and practice—is a commitment and an art form of the godly that have the gift of mercy. They can sit silently for hours and days, even up to a week during the mourning period, to just be with the person in need.
When Less Is Decidedly More
We know in many ways in life that less is more. And less is more certainly in any realm where words cheapen the vast spiritual experience where God communicates through pain.
The power enacted in acts of silence is based in a faith beyond any faith in ourselves.
The less we speak in situations of pain and difficulty the more God speaks. Why would we get in the way of God by speaking too much? Though sometimes people in pain want to speak and listen. We must just ask who are we speaking for—them or us?
Our acts of mercy should just be that: acts where the person being ministered to sees the acts as merciful. Sometimes we speak too much when we are anxious. Slowing down our speech and restraining our words helps us communicate in a God-conscious way, being accountable to God.
God speaks most powerfully through our acts conveyed in silence, to just be there for others without strings attached. Often our time is more valuable than our words.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.