The secret things belong to the LORD our God. Deuteronomy 29:29
Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21
“It’s just an old ladder–probably put there by the cliff dwellers,” said Bess. Nancy did not agree. *
As I moved about the house last night, turning down lights, blowing out candles, checking the covers on beds, I saw the dim beam of a flashlight coming from our sons’ room. An admonition leapt to my tongue; I was ready to say, “Sweetie, do you know what time it is? It is very late. Please go to bed.” But the room was so silent, the moonlight so still, and the boy–this second born–so very transfixed.
Our oldest son is full of words. Like me, he thinks aloud. Social and gregarious, he is tempered only by his younger sister, who at number three of our half dozen has twice as many words to speak as he. But Judah, our second-born, considers his thoughts in the secret places of his heart. He is so like is father in personality and appearances that I often study him with a measure of curious wonder–is this who my husband was as a child? It’s a fun question because I’ve learned through these nearly 13 years of marriage how my decided yet gentle, quiet yet convicted husband thinks, how he processes, what moves and doesn’t move the waters of his heart. I look my son and because of my husband can find it–well, if not easy, then at least more natural–to give him space, and silence. I am learning to connect by means that are not dominated by words.
The first time my husband and I ever traveled together we were madly in love but still in denial. We had ten hours of freeway ahead of us and by mutual agreement we were not lovers but friends (which is a long story; beg me and I’ll tell you!). Three hours into the trip, deep into midnight, there were no more words to say and my frustration began to mount. Here was this man about whom I was crazy, this man I couldn’t have, and we couldn’t communicate? Couldn’t connect? I had traveled the world over with friends and knew the thrill of conversation which never ceased. I had been looking forward to these ten hours of getting-to-know-him, and here he was driving along in perfectly silent contentment. I thought I would lose my mind.
So, as any wordy person might, I said something. It wasn’t “it’s really hard for me to sit over here on the other side of the car, because all I really want to do is touch you”–I had said that twice before and would probably say it three times more (I’m telling you, we were in an odd place). No, I straight-up told him that it felt awkward to not have anything more to say, it made me uncomfortable and unsure because I had not expected to run out of conversation–and anyway, having nothing to say, well, doesn’t that mean we don’t really connect?
He only smiled. Glancing at me out of the corner of his eye David replied, and I’ve never forgotten, “I’ve always thought that when two people can be quiet together it is a good thing. It means they are very comfortable in one another’s presence.” Taking it as a compliment, I closed my mouth with a silent huh. We drove for a long while in that now-comfortable silence. And you know? When his cup was full, that man turned to me and opened up the secret places of his heart–with words.
The memory of this flashed before my mind in an instant when I found Judah surrounded by stuffed animals in the sanctuary of his bed (his only personal space in the house), peering wide-eyed at a library copy of Nancy Drew. Perhaps because of the Holy Spirit, perhaps because I’m trying very hard to form a habit of mindfulness toward my children, but I changed my mind and shut my mouth. I have been praying for ways to connect with this oh-so-different-from-me child, this child classically positioned in the middle.
He never offered me a glance, so I crept to his bottom bunk and curled up next to his growing-so-big body, and began to read (soundlessly, of course). Without a word he offered a corner of the book to my hand, and in this way we passed the next 20 minutes, finishing the mystery at one another’s side.
When the story ended, Judah closed the cover and whispered generously, “do you need the flashlight?”
“No,” I whispered back.
So moving his stuffed animals, he curled onto his pillow and I pulled the covers up around. His hand noiselessly reached mine for a pat. “I love you,” I whispered, and in the moonlight–in that gentle silence–I saw his face content.
“When two people can be quiet together it is a good thing.”
Yes, yes, yes.
*The Secret of Shadow Ranch, Carolyn Keene