When Love Is Silent


Although there are definitely some things on which we blatantly disagree, I sat in my car watching Oprah Winfrey win the Cecil B. DeMille award and listened to her speech and thought, thank you. For her coherency, her heart, and her compassion. For her ability (in this case) to put into words things that needed saying. Sometimes when I write about cooking or entertaining, I wonder if anyone cares. Not you, my readers, but anyone in the wider sense of the world. Does it matter if a person does or does not throw a dinner party? Does it matter if a woman knows how to set a pretty table for her girl gang when in other places in the world, girls are being gang-raped?

Somehow when I think about the great evil of which humans are capable, having a select few seated at my dinner table seems a small, almost an indecent act. It almost feels heartless to write about parties, or cakes, or even to celebrate things when there is so much that is wrong with the world. But we are not inherently good and willpower will not fix what is wrong with the world. I love the idea that we could eradicate wrong entirely by standing together, but it is flawed. Because we are flawed. And in the wordlessness stands the Word: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The One who sacrificed Himself in our places so that one day evil and injustice and rape and famine and war will be obliterated. He said a lot in His time here on earth. And yet the thing that broke chains and freed us from having no hope is not His words, but the mind-blowing sacrifice of Himself in our place. Wordless because He is the Word.

Yes, there is so much to be said. You know I want to speak to these injustices and to help somehow, and all I manage to write is another recipe. It is as though I have no words for the things that need a voice. I agree, it is uncomfortable. There are so many thoughts inside of me and when they are expressed they have not, as one would expect, made a declaration but...a pan of brownies. It would be comical were it not so easily misunderstood for silence on the things that need sound. In a world so loud and overwrought, perhaps the quietest triumphs go unheard. Because for me, like many, our hearts feel a thing and find no words for it. Funny when words come so cheap and pour out in casual conversation, in tweets and status updates, in text messages and Facebook messages and all the while the things we really mean to say go unsaid. I love you. I see you. I want to know your story. But contrary to the roaring silence we think we are putting off, maybe we are saying these things. Think for a moment - can you hear it?
I see you. I love you. I want to know your story.
I believe we instinctively hear this silent heart-cry. Listen. How many times did you walk through your grandmother's front door after your grandfather undid the locks - click, slick, slock; one, two three. The green carpet hissed underfoot as you crept through the living room past the cat with eyes like live coals. Down the dark hallway, past the stuffed pheasant peering wisely down from the gun safe, into a kitchen made golden by florescent lights and yellow linoleum. You smelled brown 'n' serve rolls and your stomach growled. Maybe you asked when dinner would be ready. Someone offered you a Ritz cracker out of a slender brown plastic sleeve - the package always half-consumed and twisted tightly closed. As you tried to make the buttery cracker last, you watched your grandmother open the tiny oven and poke a knife into the meatloaf which would be there because the world had not grown complicated just yet. Over you washed the smell of roasted potatoes and carrots and onions drowning in beef juices. The nose-tickling smell of dill pickle spears in the cut-glass dish caught you under the chin as you slid into a hard chair and wondered for what seemed the hundredth time why there were grains of rice in the salt dispenser. In these pre-dinner moments your grandparents might have talked about nearly anything - the neighbors, the weather, the television - but what they were saying isn't what you heard with every inch of your small, hungry body. You are seen. You are loved. I want to know your story. And when your grandmother served the plates and brought yours to you at the card table which might possibly give way under its weight of food, always serving herself last, there was no part of you which did not hear that heartbeat cry. Safe, warm, fed. She had spoken great things underneath the common things, and your world was not yet so noisy that you could not hear it.

It is these moments I hold to when what needs to be said seems difficult to conjure and the other words seem inane. To those who can find the words, we thank you. To those who, like me, find themselves lacking that ability but want to help...do not worry. There are some who will not hear, but there are many others to whom your silent love will sound like a heartbeat drum. And when they sit at your specially decorated table, or receive your invitation, or open the door to find you on their steps clutching a plate of cookies, they will hear all the silent things you meant to say. You are seen. You are loved. I want to know your story. And really, for any of us, that is all we've ever truly wanted.

1 comment

  1. Yes, yes, yes. This. Thank you for putting it into words!

    Rachel Emily

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