On some ancient maps, unknown territories were marked by the phrase, “Here Be Dragons” (or as on this map, they were simply drawn in). It was a way to alert people to the fact that beyond the pale, there was no way of knowing what you might encounter.
Silence and meditation—or mindfulness, ̛as it’s becoming known—is becoming popular spirituality, and its qualities are becoming widely known (I wrote it about a few months back). However, part of my experience with the practice of silence has definitely been along the lines of “Here Be Dragons.”
One of the first lessons I learned when I began to practice silence was that I was really good at covering stuff up. The noise in my life serves as anesthesia to the uglier parts of my soul. The more distracted I am, the less I need to look at the brokenness that flows through my life like a stagnant and rank river. Who wants to smell that? So I add more and more to my life, in the form of iPods, movies, television shows, Netflix, radio, iPhones, constant connectivity, and more and more meetings, people, and parties, all so I can ignore the junk.
All so I can pretend the dragons don’t exist.
Silence and contemplation aren’t all peaceful, comfortable minutes of bliss.
For me, when I begin to quiet my spirit, my vision inevitably drifts beyond the known borders of my life, into the unknown.
Where the dragons are.
Does this sound overly scary or melodramatic? Maybe. I don’t know.
But I know that when you stop being distracted, stop numbing yourself, there’s nothing to take your gaze away from the stuff that lurks inside you.
Now here’s the good news.
When contemplation and silence is done right, you know you’re not alone. It’s tough sure, because lets face it, dragons are just scary (even when voiced by the oh-so-dreamy Benedict Cumberbatch), but we know that we don’t have to fear being crushed or destroyed, because … and this is amazing…
God dwells beyond the borderlands as well.
Scripture tells us repeatedly that God is entirely at home silence, darkness, and wilderness. The monastics unabashedly declare, “Silence is God’s first language.”
All this adds up to the idea that, true, we may be strolling into Smaug’s lair, but we don’t walk alone.
It’s our job to sit,to quiet the distractions, and to find the scary parts of our souls.
But ultimately it’s God’s job to slay the dragons.