Well before I knew the term for it, I have been someone who ruminates. Negative self-talk can be all-consuming, and I believe that this dimension of my life is the closest that I have come to the experience of the “man with the unclean spirit” in today’s Gospel. In previous encounters with this text, I have focused on Jesus’ command to “Come out of him!” Today, though, my attention is drawn instead to Jesus’ first word in the face of tumult: “Quiet!”
Reading this, my imagination dashes to swimming amidst the massive waves of the Jersey Shore. As a child, I learned that beneath the rough part of a wave is calm water that you can glide through if you dive deeply enough. There were several times when I was tossed about while caught inside a breaking wave. Many more times, though, I managed to dive into the sweet spot and was left in awe of how still the ocean could be amidst immense forceful motion.
Inspired by today’s Gospel, ordained United Methodist minister Jan Richardson composed a beautiful “Blessing in the Chaos,” which includes her prayers for “a stilling of the voices…that have made their home in you, that go with you even to the holy places but will not let you rest…” When I experience ruminating thoughts, I pray for these graces, which I would summarize as graces of quieting.
Rather than perceiving an on/off switch to my internal voice, I am interpreting Jesus’ exclamation of “Quiet!” as a reminder of the possibilities to dim the brightness, turn down the volume, or lower the heat on that which might otherwise consume me. I know that I cannot eliminate the chaos of these thoughts entirely, but I may be able to find a more peace-filled place beneath them if I dive deeply enough alongside God.
- For what or for whom do you pray for graces of quieting?
- What practice(s) might support your descent into “the quiet that lies beneath the chaos” (in the words of Richardson)?
Reference: Blessing in the Chaos © Jan Richardson. Janrichardson.com. https://paintedprayerbook.com/2012/01/24/epiphany-4-blessing-in-the-chaos/
Courtney Esteves is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross (‘19). She is currently a second year student at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, pursuing a Master of Divinity. Courtney is passionate about trauma-informed pastoral care, liberation theologies, and “faith doing justice.”