I have a meditation bell that sits on my desk. Our communications director came in the other day to show me something on her computer, and instead of functionality we got the spinning rainbow wheel of death indicating that the computer was upgrading. I knew I was visibly frustrated, so I went over to the bell and rang it.

She looked at me, surprised. “Why did you do that?” She was curious.

“Because we needed to take a break quickly. We were frustrated … or at least I was.”

“Huh,” she said. “And no movement until we can’t hear the tone anymore, right?”

“Right,” I said.

I’ve used the bell this way for a few years, getting the idea from a mentor of mine.

Judy Brown, in her poem “Fire,” writes:

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.

It’s one of the reasons why intentional silence is built into worship services, or should be. After the sermon. After communion. In moments of holy contemplation God invites us, as an extension of the Sabbath command, to refrain in those moments and just burn.

The bell on my desk rings a silent tone. It’s audible, sure. But it calls me to silence, especially when my impulse is to rage or rant. Raging causes me to burn out. I want to burn in life.

It’s the wisdom Elijah found when he realized God was not in the hurricane or the earthquake but in the silence that followed. It’s the wisdom Jesus embraced when he went up to the garden to pray amidst the turmoil of Maundy Thursday.

It’s the wisdom of space between the words on this page that allow us to read.

It’s the wisdom that counteracts the spinning wheels of death that we’re constantly on in life, bombarded by noise and frustration and the invitation to burn out. We’re made to burn.

It’s the wisdom of the Sabbath, the wisdom of the sigh that the Spirit of God uses as an opportunity to intercede for us when our own words are absent, allowing God to speak volumes while we refrain.

Where’s your bell?

Tim Brown
Tim Brown is a pastor, writer, and mission ambassador and gifts officer for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

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