Fathers, Sheer Silence, and Being King Of the Mountain

An article by on June 15, 2018

Fathers, Sheer Silence, and Being King Of the Mountain

My husband, Howie, likes to ride his bike. He likes it so much that he will kit himself with all manner of spandex and glucose gel packs, and configure a route on his Garmin for sometimes 100 miles in a go. Apparently, there are quite a number of individuals who do the same, logging their routes, broadcasting the progress and speed along various stretches of road. And to log the fastest time on some arbitrary (to my view) segment, the swift-rider is crowned (virtually, of course) King Of the Mountain – KOM.

And friends who ride together in companionable conversation and wonder at the landscape one day, will independently strategize and prepare to best each other’s KOMs on another. There are seemingly infinite iterations of segments that can be KOMd, and when a rider beats the latest record one day, his friend can take the KOM on the next. It is all in good fun – or so my husband assures me. And I so love to hear his enthusiasm and joy at achieving another KOM. But I found elements of similarity with sentiments described in this poem by William Belvin published in the January 1957 edition of Poetry Magazine entitled,

Satan on Economics

By William Belvin

1

If thou be rich,

what shall I say—

go hug thy neighbor’s

life away?

Idleness

is equal good,

freak luxuries . . .

all turpitude,

since thou be rich,

is but thy free

and many-routed

way to Me.

2

Poor is not pretty—

so homely beast,

join our wolves’

or jackals’ feast.

I will provide,

or thou shall seize

from things not thine,

since nothing is.

Or beast the burden

called honest bread

(other men’s evil)

if thou be proud.

3

But if thou be

not-rich-not-poor,

may God help thee—

I can no more.

For on thine in-

betweening fear

of fear of want,

of want of fear,

and hunger hot

for the just-above,

our pangs cannot,

I think, improve.

The in-betweening is most difficult space to occupy – that place of not-rich-not-poor that is lived in fear – in fear of fear even. Because in the in-between the hunger is not for want of food, but for that which is just-above, just a whisper of breath beyond the fingertips that one cannot quite hook a finger on. And no matter how comfortably set, the just-above is eternally just there: above.

Today’s Ignatian reading is the 1 Kings 19 account of Elijah’s encounter with God on the mountain. But Elijah’s KOM is not conferred in the manner we associate with power and prestige – God’s presence was not in the earthquake, or fierce wind, or fire. God’s presence came in the form of sheer and utter – deafening – silence.

And all Elijah can do is cover himself and move forward. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His answer to God is that all is out of reach – Israel’s relationship with God, his own safety, hope. But God is present. Present to Elijah. Personally. In silence.

So, perhaps you have much, or little, or are in-betweening, and do not even know what you really need. Except you do know the striving for whatever KOM designation in your life is not bringing peace.

I invite you to use this time to allow God to enter your space in silence – if you are listening with noise-canceling earbuds, all the better!

Steady your breathing.

Pay attention to each breath.

Listen to the chime. And then listen for that space where the sound ends and the sheer silence begins.

[chime]

One hundred-miler Howie prioritizes is the Tour de Cure organized each year to raise money for research into the cure for diabetes. The training for these rides take up a great deal of time, and he will often listen to podcasts or music or chat with other riders. But he will also take long stretches without anything in his ears – time for silence, time to commune with God. And he returns home to his family so beautifully present to us.

And then nothing seems out of reach. God is present.

This Sunday is Father’s day, and I am thankful for this person who partners with me to parent our children. So, for this day, he is king of our mountain. At least, we’ll let him think that.

 

You can find resources and a transcript of this podcast on my website eirenicole.com

Today may you welcome silence and walk at the pace of grace.

 

Jazz piano performed by Ethan Oliver

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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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