“You will never know your true self, or the God who created you, unless you become comfortable in the silence.” – Thomas Merton, trappist monk
Silence. It is an awful thing to those of us accustomed to living in this noisy world. Silence is unsettling. It is unnerving if experienced for too long. That is why it is such a powerful deterrent in the prison systems. Solitary confinement is a most dreaded consequence for most inmates because of the complete isolation experienced. It will drive you mad and cause your soul to grieve.
Why is that? Why do we fear the quiet? Is it because we will feel alone? Is it because we will be forced to look inside ourselves and maybe confront some issues that are otherwise avoidable in our over-stimulated and overly busy lives? Or is it that we fear coming face-to-face with God? Maybe we intrinsically know that God is found in the silence. And maybe we don’t want to go there because we fear what He might have to say to us.
Cultivating silence in my life has been a two-year challenge for me. It is a spiritual discipline that I first learned about at the Academy of Spiritual Formation. I had always regarded the disciplines as something you “do,” things such as bible study, prayer, fasting. However, the discipline of silence, is something you “be.”
Silence is allowing your soul to rest in the presence of God. And to quote one of my favorite authors, brother Thomas, we have to begin thinking of silence “not as an absence of something, but as the presence of God.” That is why the quote above is so profound to me. I finally understand that silence is the only way that I can truly listen to God, attention undivided, and hear what He has to say to me. How will I know His thoughts toward me, or His love for me, or His plans for me – unless I listen?
I have some issues that I have been trying to figure out for a while now. Yesterday, instead of “working on them,” I was led by a friend to get up and just walk outside for a while. My church has a prayer labyrinth build in a wooded area of our campus. I wandered out there and, surrounded by the trees in God’s great cathedral, I just stayed. I didn’t pray. I didn’t think. I just listened.
I listened to the birds, and to the wind, and to nothing. It was so peaceful. All my worries just melted away, and I rested in God’s presence. After an hour or so, I wandered back into my office. I still didn’t have any answers, but I was so much calmer. And I was so much more joyful. I was reminded that I am His child, and all His plans will be revealed to me in His time. So I can leave all the stress and worry behind.
Do you have that place in which, not only your surroundings, but your mind can be silent? Do you make time in your busy life to slow down and just “be?” Silence is the hardest discipline I have ever had. But it is the most invaluable as well. I don’t know how I could make it without that experience (often.) It renews my soul and quiets my mind. It energizes and relaxes me all at the same time.
My prayer for each one of you is that you would find the benefits of solitude and silence. That you would allow God’s Spirit to seep into your soul and heal all damaged places from the inside out. That you would find peace that surpasses all understanding.