Psalm 65: 1 – Holy God, to you, even silence is praise.
We really have a love/hate relationship with silence. ‘Silence is golden.’ Silence is deadly. ‘Silence is bliss.’ Remember the Quiet Game? Parents LOVE it; and kids, once they figure it out, not so much. We love silence when others practice the art, yet go out of our own way to avoid the uncomfortableness of no sound. The background noise (white noise, it’s referred to) of having the TV, radio, other people around masks the discomfort we experience by silence and pulls the wool over our eyes to the ways we really don’t like the sound of silence.
There are certainly times when silence is longed for; think 2am when you’re trying to get to sleep. The brain just keeps running, the mental thoughts keep rolling around and around on that squirrel-cage between our ears. This (and others like it) are the times when we wish we were better practiced at the art of ‘being still and knowing that God is God’ (paraphrased).
But, as a society, silence is neither emphasized, nor valued. My thoughts as I’m listening to an obviously unplanned break in a radio-station’s programmed listening: ‘Oh, I bet someone’s going to get in trouble for that.’ Silence , it seems, is equated with a lack of production and a loss of potential revenue. Silence is laziness embodied. Silence definitely seems to be undervalued in our society.
Unless, or course, we are having a ‘discussion’ with somebody, in which case, we long for silence: the other person’s silence, that is, for it serves as our invitation to launch again into what we have to say, think, or feel.
How trite, yet oddly appropriate is the parable of the phone call with God. The telephone call is made, God picks up the heavenly receiver and offers a gracious salutation with an invitation to share what’s on our heart; we accept; we offer the minute details of our heart’s desire and then upon completion, we hang up. it’s as though we say, “Thanksbye,” never giving the space for God to answer.
Why do we (I) neglect the silence? How unfortunate that this seems to be the case, for it is in this silence that God speaks, as Elijah discovered in the sheer silence up on Mt. Horeb.
I spent a lot of time with silence these past months of our sabbatical, listening to and sorting through those voices and priorities competing for attention. In that time, something I’ll share with you here became more abundantly and deeply clear – God’s abiding presence with us (me) through all we (I) say, do, and think; and God’s desire to journey with us (me) arm in arm, hand in hand through the pathways of the garden of our Life.
In the coming month (s) as a part of our prayer life, I invite us to devote 10 minutes a day to the sound of silence: Okay, make it 5 minutes if this is something new for you. In these minutes following the prayerful petitioning we offered to the Lord, I invite us to be attentively quiet, paying attention to the minute sounds silence can bring to our awareness: the fan, the creaking floorboards, the wind blowing against the windows, the sounds of a pet’s feet as it pads across the room, that still small voice of the One who neither abandons nor forsakes.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the mighty Wind of God, would give us ears to hear, hearts to respond, and minds to discern what truth God leads us into.