Sand Slates and Silent Space
It was a sea of monkey bars and swings
Chalk outlines for four square, and a handful of trees,
A fireman’s pole and gargantuan slide towers.
But it was a pit of sand that seemed to rule the recess half hour.
Yeah, greater than all that manmade equipment
Specially crafted for 1st-6th grade entertainment
Was a spot by the fence
That looked like it was there by accident
But leave it to us children not to let any resource be wasted.
See, this was where we could build and create
Sources of pride
And bragging rights
Were what dirty fingernails became.
Using twigs to prop up tunnels,
Digging deep enough to get to clay that wouldn’t so easily crumble
Like when our parents took us to the beach
Gave us pails and molds to see how high sand castles could reach
But that sand would fail to hold when high tide met its peak
And we’d see those strongholds slump back into the shore and make us a little more humble.
And more than that, what was important about those playground grains
Was their ability to immortalize love in the form of a couple of names
That boy with the scabby elbows and that girl with the braids
With only a stick could make their initials proclaim
Something that was just a little bit bigger than themselves.
And if those feelings
Became like ceilings
In the midst of a storm with its gusts and swells
Then with the swipe of a hand, you could renew that sand
And reclaim your name to yourself.
But once recess is over, the teachers inside want our attention
So to bring order to chaos, they introduce a new convention
Of silence: the synonym for sound’s suspension
Reinforced by the tension made by the threat of detention.
So in single file lines, we’d play the quiet game
To convince us that softer sounds weren’t entirely lame
But be ready to spout correct answers when your turn in class came
But if you had an idea, you had to keep your hand raised.
So suffice it to say that love/hate
Is how many of us and silence tend to relate.
Awkward silence after a joke that no one thinks is funny
Silence when you’re trying to go to sleep
And wish for white noise to make a better soundtrack for your dreams.
Silence when you need it – as an idea starts to bloom
And silence that lasts too long after you look her in the eyes and say “I love you.”
When that pause serves as the answer she can’t bring herself to say
Cuz no one wants to hear the sound a heart makes when it breaks
And you wish you’d chosen that same silence in order to save
Yourself from being so certain you were ready to give part of yourself away.
But those parts of ourselves can be taken away by others
When silence is forced on a person and a voice is taken like saturation out of a color
So that all that’s left is black and white
There’s only wrong and right
And your voice has been taken along with your claim to your own life.
So it’s like a woman dragged through the temple courts
By officials who caught her, shushed her up, and brought her before
Another whose tongue they’re seeking to twist and tangle
In laws that they’ve held to so tightly they’ve started to strangle
The very people the Law was put in place to protect.
See, she was caught in adultery, so the penalty should be death
It’s a shame so great, it demands both her last sound and her last breath.
So look the rabbi in the eyes and no need to confess
We’ve presented your case so all that’s left
Is for you to await your fate.
But the rabbi’s tongue is not so easily twisted
For he can see the traps which were laid by those Pharisees’ systems.
They didn’t see what he did, that they’d fallen in their own snares
They’d brought silence as a weapon before the Lord, but silence?
God is in there.
Before anything was nothing but chaos, the wild and waste
It was out of this chaos that God spoke
It is out of silence that God creates.
Light, dark, separate
Bodies of sky and sea, and in the heavens, too, to mark night and day.
And on and on, out of silence God puts God’s plan into motion
Out of every misstep the creation makes, the Creator remakes the broken
But how can that be so, if the words were never spoken?
And how could the words be spoken without there being silence to be broken?
We’re called to a posture of silence when we approach God’s throne
Because silence is the canvas on which God can make God’s will known.
Where new words can be written in our lives with a few brushstrokes
Like that old sandbox where we’re reminded we aren’t alone.
So the rabbi turns to that sand, that inexplicably holy dirt
And starts to scribble away, meaninglessly it seems at first
Before saying, the one who hasn’t sinned can be the first to stone her
And slowly the accusers drift away as they read those words.
And even though
We don’t know
What was written
I have a sneaking suspicion
That we wouldn’t like it very much
Dirty laundry aired out in front of everyone.
Whether those words were sins and transgressions
Or even graces that were extended
There was something there that might remind us
That there’s so much baggage that comes with existence.
But I believe there’s a reason there was silence in the beginning.
And I think that the Son writing in sand was fitting.
Because silence is the canvas on which God can make new brushstrokes
And it’s the posture with which we approach the throne and beg,
Make your plan known.
And it’s the space we speak into
When asked “Who has condemned you?”
So that with a new voice we may answer
And with confidence we turn over our names into God’s hands
So that God may run them through the sand
To say you are clean and you are mine
And I will speak life into your silence as I did at the beginning
And will for all time.