Are you comfortable being with someone, without talking? Many of us are not. Sharing the silence feels too intimate. We wonder what the other person is thinking when our gazes meet.
We wonder if we are being rude if we do not talk. Isn’t talking the thing that connects us to another?
We are never really relaxed because we are either thinking of what we will say to keep the conversation going or what we will say in response to the other person, who is trying to keep the conversation going.
Whether we consciously think about it or not, we often use words to put up fences that define where we are and how far another can come into our space. If we talk about how our favorite sports team is doing, we hope everyone understands we want to talk on the casual level. We do not want to talk about personal things.
Can We Communicate Without Words or Touch?
As a nurse, I once cared for a young man, who had been in a tragic accident. He could not move or talk. Initially it was thought he did not hear or understand what was going on around him. But he did. As time went on, I was able to understand the messages he was sending through his eyes.
I began to spend time with him, periodically talking, but mostly looking into his eyes. The day came when he was able to move his head and confirm what I was seeing. He was able to nod, “yes,” “no,” and finally shrug his shoulders.
Commitment to Being Present
I was fascinated when I watched a video of performance artist Marina Abramovic. In her appearance at MoMA in New York in 2010, she spent one minute of silence with each person who agreed to participate. It was amazing to see how much was communicated between Marina and the stranger, who committed to one minute of looking directly at each other. What started as a gaze became a powerful connection. As the seconds ticked by, the world beyond themselves retreated and they were fully present with each other.
When I first began to have pedicures at a certain salon, I found it to be almost socially awkward. The act of foot washing and having someone do something to my feet seemed personal.
As feet come out of winter boots into the open, it is easy to feel a little undressed. I wonder if my feet are ugly. After all, the people who work in the nail spa see all kinds of feet every day. How do mine compare? Do they show signs of aging? I might put makeup on my face, but do my feet give me away?
Do my feet smell bad? I don’t notice anything, but my feet are pretty far away from my nose. Can the person who is sitting next to me smell my feet? Would anyone tell me?
And then human hands touch my feet. How often do we allow strangers to touch us? Is there not something within us that puts up a shield when we are touched? It’s a reflex, right? But I have invited this young man sitting at my feet to touch me. I signed on for this.
I immediately begin to talk about something … anything. He smiles. I finally figure it out. He does not speak much English. He does not completely understand my verbal wall. He smiles where another would speak. I need not prepare a response for words that will not come. I have nothing to say. I smile back. Our silence begins to settle. It feels safe and somehow even welcome.
I realize he expects nothing of me. He only wants to give to me. As I receive, I find that I do not think of him giving to me because I give to him by paying. In the quiet moments of nothing, but soothing touches and smiles, I relax and receive.
We do not look at each other every moment. He concentrates on my feet. I look around the room or close my eyes. But at moments, our eyes connect and we smile at each other. I notice more and more about him. I notice he is wearing a cross on a chain around his neck.
I think of Jesus washing the feet of His Disciples. How tenderly He must have removed the dust from their feet, anticipating seeing the feet He created from the beginning. He remembered their feet being formed in the secret place of the womb. He remembered the admiring looks of their parents when they saw those tiny feet for the first time.
He remembered the way they pushed themselves along on those feet, as they crawled from place to place. He remembered their first uncertain steps, as they began to walk. He remembered the first time walking transposed into running.
He saw the times they tripped and fell, and He pulled them back to their feet. Yes, those feet were a part of Him. He had been there for every step.
As He washed their feet, His touch was personal and loving. He knew He was preparing those feet to “go” and spread His Gospel of Peace. He was anointing their feet with His Love.
Peter resisted. He did not want Jesus exposed to his feet. He wanted to impress Jesus. Peter also thought He was honoring Jesus by not exposing Him to dirt. But Peter failed to remember he originated from dirt. It was the touch of The Master’s Hands that had changed him from simple dirt into who he was. It was those same hands that would fashion him into a rock, upon which The Church would be built.
But first, Peter would have to learn how to receive in humility. When he understood, Peter offered not just his feet, but his whole body to Jesus. Jesus showed His Love for Peter in His Touch. I believe there was no need for words.
Peter simply sat in The Presence of His Lord and received. Peter looked down into The Eyes of Jesus and understood what it meant to be fully present in His Presence. Peter would take that memory with him, as he traveled on those feet and touched others in The Name of Jesus.
You will fill me with Joy in Your Presence!
Spend some time just sitting in The Presence of Jesus, receiving The Joy He wants to give you. You may want to start with just one minute. (After spending one minute, you may find you want to stay longer, but He will not force you. He lets you take baby steps!)
Allow Him to touch you and wash away the dirt of the road.
Allow Him to anoint you for the work He has for you to do.
Quiet your body. Don’t talk.
Quiet your mind. Resist the urge to formulate your own thoughts or questions. Just be.
I think there is a reason the 23rd Psalm says He “makes us lie down in green pastures.” Even when the pasture is green, we resist lying down!
See Jesus, as He comes to you personally. There is no one with whom you need to compete. There is nothing you need to do to qualify to be with Him. There is nothing you need to pay Him for His Time. Know that He wants to spend this time with you.
He is not here to scold, lecture or condemn. He is here to love you. He has loved you through each stage of your life. He loves you where you are now. He will continue to love you, no matter what choices you make.
He has not come to take anything from you except that which you are willing to give Him. When your hands are empty of what you now hold, you will be ready to receive what He wants to give you.
He may speak to you now or later. Don’t strain to hear Him. This is not about coming away with “news to use.” It is about being in His Presence!
Receive His Love. Receive His Joy. Receive His Peace.
Be still and know that I am God …