When the answer is silence

I, strictly a composer of prose, have written more than 30 poems in the last month. I guess that’s what waiting does to an impatient soul like mine.

About a month ago, I did a really brave and scary thing. I opened up my heart, stepped into a place of extreme vulnerability, and then I stepped back and waited. At first, waiting didn’t even feel like much; it was simply a relief to have finally said what was needed. All of my friends could tell that I was happier, my spirit lighter, my laughter genuine and carefree after a few really long and oddly dark weeks. The sun was finally shining upon me again!

I was aware of the wait that preceded me, but by no means was I prepared.

I am not the first person to have experienced a wait such as this, an excruciating exercise in patience and trust in God. There have been moments when I have regretted ever stepping into the discomfort in the first place, moments when I thought everyone would have been better off if I’d just kept quiet from the start. Oh, but anyone who knows me also knows that this is quite impossible. I cannot keep quiet, not about anything, but especially not about matters of the heart, friendship and love. I have always been an open book.

Although this vulnerability was shared between myself and another person, I soon discovered that this wait was a lot more about me and God than anything else. After a few days of waiting turned into a week, I was faced with a question that, although not audible, I felt very strongly in my chest.

It was as if God was tapping on my shoulder, asking, “Do you trust me?”

And what do you know, but for the first time in my entire life, I slammed my hands down on the table and yelled out, “No! How could I trust you when this just feels like torture?”

Rather dramatically, one night I even sat in complete darkness at my dining room table and cried while listening to the most depressing music I could find. Angst, my old friend, had found me once again.

Meanwhile, all my waiting has added up to silence.

All my vulnerability has amounted to little more than assumptions and forlorn conclusions. I’ve done my best to avoid these assumptions, because they never do amount to much more than self-deprecating lies, but there comes a point when you cannot cry any more tears. There comes a point when the best solution to your pain seems to be packing it up in a box marked “cold case” and hoping that one day the dust will pile so high that the memory fades beneath it or, by some crazy chance, hoping that one day the answer will no longer be silence—the answer will become tangible, conclusive.

Vulnerability, it seems, has a way of backfiring on us. When being vulnerable ushers us into a time and space of waiting, it seems more like intentional torture than anything else. No outside perspective, no support, no encouragement can stop that feeling in the midst of waiting, in the midst of silence where you expected there to be words.

But I turn back to the question “do you trust me?”

When I was confronted with my lack of trust, I spent some time lamenting and questioning everything. It did not take long, however, for me to remember that I want to trust God.

It has not been easy to rebuild what I did not know was about to break; it has not been easy accepting that my vulnerability and the resulting silence was enough to make me doubt God. It has not been easy, but it has made me more sure than ever that I made the right choice in opening my heart and laying it all on the line.

There are many “what-ifs” and assumptions I could draw from this experience. I have no doubt that I will continue fighting these thoughts. I am sure that the silence will continue to hurt me. You cannot be vulnerable as I have been and not in turn suffer in the silence. You cannot love others without pain; you cannot take risks without falling face-first onto concrete.

When the answer you receive is silence, you have to fight a lot harder not to believe lies. You have to cry a lot harder in private to make sure you don’t fall apart in public. You have to have some hard conversations and face some harsh realities.

When the answer is silence, you have to learn to sit next to your broken pieces and remind yourself that you are not “too much” and that you are not “not enough.”

When the answer is silence, you fill the gaps with poems and songs and tears and cries to God. And you hope that, in the silence, you would discover that your vulnerability is not in vain, that your pain is not for nothing, and that you have not been abandoned.

I do not regret saying the hard things, no matter the silence. I do not regret that I remain willing to love, that I remain willing to do it all again—no matter the silence. And no matter the silence, I do not regret the pain, tears, confusion, or the break in trust. No matter the silence, I do not regret this continued vulnerability here today.

No matter the silence. It does not have the final word.

P.s. – If someone is waiting for you to say something important, please do whatever you must to gain the courage. Silence, although an answer, is really quite cruel.

P.p.s. – If you are a person receiving only silence as an answer, please hear this: you are worth far more than silence…far, far more.