I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Keren Dibbens-Wyatt’s reflection on singing your song.
Every morning I practice centering prayer and I commune with the divine, and I usually get interrupted at some point by three hard of hearing old ladies who stand outside cackling and shrieking with laughter, whilst they completely fail to control the Jack Russell that belongs to one of them. This goes on for at least half an hour. The dog drives me mad with its incessant yapping, the women with their nails-on-blackboard voices. This is their gossip time and it happens rain or shine, but at unpredictable moments so that I cannot plan around it.
One minute I’m feeling whole and at peace, the next I am face to face with my shadow side as I find myself harbouring a desire to own a bazooka. The world seems to always knock us back down to earth when we are trying to make the spiritual life a priority. So how do we deal with it?
Well, one helpful perception the Lord gave me is the idea that everyone is singing their own song, whether they are a Jack Russell, a sparrow, a cantankerous writer or a bilious old lady. Sometimes it’s not the one he’d have chosen for them, but it is their own, and they are entitled to sing it, just as I’m entitled to sing my own song of meaningful silence. The fact that one encroaches on another is just the way it is. In this imperfect world, dancers step on each other’s toes, singers sing without consideration of harmony.
Not everyone sings their song in tune. Some screech, some are so busy trying to sing someone else’s song that they never find their own. Still others try to sing the song that they think they are supposed to be singing, the one that will please others, conditioned by the rules and pressures and ill-fitting melodies of the world, so that barely a note in ten is their own.
To know your own song requires a lot of listening and a willingness to learn the tune. Often, it requires silence. The notes may come quietly, like a tinkling of bottle tops in a tree, a lullaby that rises from deep inside your soul. Or they may come thick and fast like raindrops in a thunderstorm, Wagnerian and powerful.
Whatever it sounds like, your song will sit happily in your soul and start proclaiming its right not only to be there and be welcomed, but to be sung.
So we start out tentatively, a few notes at first. Maybe we clap our hands over our mouths at the strangeness of the sounds, or at the shock of hearing truth emanating from our inner selves. Perhaps someone else might tell us to shut up. More often than not those naysaying fears will come from inside of us, from that inner critic that insists on appraising everything instantly for merit, usually impatiently and in error, like a bread inspector constantly pulling the loaves out of the oven whilst they are trying to rise and bake.
But, if we persevere, the sounds will come. The notes will become less wobbly and more buoyant with confidence, and because they feel and sound so right to the ears of our listening hearts, that long lost stardust music will make its way onto canvas, onto blank pages, into pulpits and pianos and classrooms, it will mark clay and wood, iron and gold, and sing your true self all over your friendships, your interests, your knowledge, relationships and your life.
Whatever we are made to do, from inside there is holy music rising to help us on our way, and we shall come to life as we learn to sing it, acknowledging that the sledgehammer, the robin, the car alarm and the world’s gossipy old ladies all have their songs to sing as well. At these times of interruption and frustration, we can feel whacked out of kilter and dissonant, and we must allow those shadow feelings to birth compassion and the giving of space to others. There must be an acceptance and a waiting for this too to pass, and a stilling till we can let our song swell again.
Such moments are perhaps geared to bring forth a generosity of spirit, a hospitality in our surroundings and sound waves, the very air a harbour of welcome. But I’m not quite there yet and at times the bazooka urge is fearsomely great. I want my quiet and I want it now! So I will practice what I preach and sit across from my sulking inner contemplative, and smile at her, and hold her hands whilst we both breathe deep and admit our desire for the tide to hurry, laughing at our own stupidity and hugging our own humanity, and hearing more notes to sing.
Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a writer and contemplative with a passion for prayer and the edification of women. She longs to draw others into deeper relationships with the Lord. Keren is the author of Positive Sisterhood, a handbook for living out Christian feminism, and you can connect with her at www.kerendibbenswyatt.com