Last Sunday during Meeting for Worship as we were heading into our time of silence and meditation and centering down, I shared a moment from Sam and my experience last Saturday at the time trials for the Indy 500.
For those who were not here, Sam and I were sitting in the stands across from pit row and the famous Pagoda. It was a full day of racer after racer vying for position. The sun had heated up the track to 130 degrees at one point, but some cloud formations were bringing the track temps down and drivers were starting to go faster.
James Hinchcliffe who drives for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was the next up. Earlier, Sam and I had spent time watching Hinchcliffe’s pit crew work on his car in the garages. Ironically, his car was the only car I snapped a photo of while over in the garage area.
We heard the roar of the engine and Hinchcliffe was off for his warm up lap. He clocked the fastest warm up lap of the day and was given the green flag to begin his qualifying lap. His car roared around turn one…and then it happened. There was a loud noise and then complete silence. I asked Sam what just happened. The silence lingered. Then the announcer said, “James Hinchcliffe went into the wall going into turn two.” You could hear a pin drop.
The big television screens went black and we waited as Paramedics and Clean-up crews flew past us on the track. For what seemed about 5 minutes we all waited in silent anticipation – hoping for good news. Looking for signs of life. While also wondering, thinking, reflecting weirdly on our own mortality. My thoughts went to my parent’s car accident a few years ago in which my mom almost died.
But what struck me, even more since that experience, has been how in this tragic moment every single person at the Speedway went silent.
It was like what the early Quakers called a “holy silence” or as Quaker Rufus Jones described it, “an intensified pause, a vitalized hush, a creative quiet, an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God.”
Whether the crowd new it or not, in a real sense we had centered down and had entered a time of expectant waiting. In that moment at the speedway, we were all “Quakers.”
That silence sat with me, it has even kind of haunted me. It also has made me wrestle with the fact that we are all internally wired for this. Silence is a part of every single one of us.
Finally, the screens came back on and James Hinchcliffe was seen emerging from his car. The crowd cheered but that moment sat with me – it seemed different – actually it seemed sacred in a real and tangible way.
That silence at the speedway spoke to me – it enlightened me. It made me realize how much I needed more silence in my crazy busy life. How in that brief silence at a very busy and noisy place, my mind asked deeper questions, and weirdly even gave me a glimpse of my own mortality.
Earlier this week, I was reading an article online about auto racing being a spiritual experience. Usually, I roll my eyes at this type of connection and can only think of Christian athletes wearing t-shirts with a scripture like Hebrews 12:1 – which reads, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
But this article had a different angle. It said that sports or auto-racing can increase spiritual awareness. That stopped me and had me pondering what that really meant. Usually, we are fighting the battle of sports being a replacement for religion or an idol that we should lay down.
But this article was making the point that racing or sports in general can actually increase spiritual awareness as we watch the athletes or drivers embrace the tensions between renewal, failure, and risk-taking.
I think I got a small but lasting glimpse of this during the time of silence as we awaited the results of Hinchcliffe’s accident. In the silence, my spiritual awareness was heightened – I had a spiritual insight that transcended my normal way of thinking. Not only was I concerned about James Hinchcliffe, I too was thinking of the tensions in my own life between renewal and failure, and risk-taking. And I have to admit, I was faced with thinking about my own mortality.
Well, on Monday as I entered my office, I continued to process all of this. I started to wonder where else God was wanting to increase my spiritual awareness. And I realized that Jesus modeled this in the Garden of Gethsemene as he faced his mortality, as did Buddha when he embraced his suffering, and even Muhammad when he accepted himself for who he was. And it doesn’t have to be athletes or prophets or diety, there are people all around me that are embracing the tensions between renewal, failure, risk-taking, and mortality that I can learn from all the time.
And that is why this morning, I have asked Dan Rains to come up and share with us out of the silence. Dan may not know this fully, but he has been teaching us a lot about renewal, failure, risk-taking, and yes, our own mortality.
As I have been intentional about spending time in silence this week, it has been Dan who I believe God has put on my mind.
Dan and I have spent a good amount of time together as he, in his own words says, “gets poisoned.” or receives his chemo treatments. I find, that like the time of silence at the speedway, my time with Dan transcends the present, often seems to be a sacred time, and always has me thinking deeper thoughts. Dan has a way, as his body battles cancer, to embrace the tensions between renewal, failure, risk-taking and mortality. So I have asked him to, as old Quakers would say, “Give Testimony” to what he is learning and would like to share with our meeting this morning.
Prior to Dan sharing his testimony, I would like us to spend an extended time in “holy silence.” I am going to ask you to refrain from speaking out of the silence, so that we can fully embrace that intensified pause, that vitalized hush, that creative quiet, to allow it to be an actual moment of mutual and reciprocal correspondence with God. When Dan feels led he will come forward to speak out of the silence.
Let us now quiet our minds and our lives.
To hear Dan Rain’s testimony, please visit https://www.indyfriends.org/sunday-morning-messages .