When we retreat from the noise of the world in silence, we gain a new perspective in the world.”Cardinal Sarah
When we think of silence, our first response is not a positive one. We think about being asked to “silence” our phones or remain “silent” during a movie or presentation. We consider this silence as an absence of the freedom to talk. It is usually met with frustration or rolling eyes. We often find even short periods of silence restrictive. Parents of young children cringe at being asked to observe “silence,” as it is virtually impossible.
The second common reference to silence is awkward silence. An awkward silence can be defined as “an uncomfortable pause in a conversation or presentation. The unpleasant nature of such silences is associated with feelings of anxiety as the participants feel pressure to speak but are unsure of what to say next,” (Wikipedia). Awkward silence can leave us feeling paranoid and anxious. We oftentimes avoid conversation that may lead to awkward silence, choosing to play music or use our phones as a means to appear too busy for conversation.
Why do I believe that we view silence so negatively? Because I think we value noise. We have come to value that which silences God, placing the utmost importance on drowning out not only our own inner thoughts but the voice of Him who speaks the language of our hearts. We have come to value that which separates us from God in a very basic and underestimated way.
Our World no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing.”Cardinal Sarah
From the moment we wake up until we go to bed, we fill our day with noise. Audiobooks, podcasts, and playlists fight for storage in our phones. When we drive, we either play music or listen to a book on tape. If we are cleaning our house, we might use our Bluetooth earbuds to provide entertainment. Peer into any restaurant, and many of the customers are on their phones. No true conversations are happening. We spend hours a day talking on the phone. Any free moments that we have, we grab our phone and spool through our Instagram or Facebook.
It is my conclusion that we equate silence with inactivity. Sitting in periods of quiet are not only perceived as “lazy” but also as “wasting time.” Why be silent when we could be listening to something? We have come to see silence as a negative thing. Multitasking with constant distractions can be a tool by the devil to keep us from quieting our hearts. As long as we have distractions, we will never enter into periods of calmness. We will never have time with the Lord to be restored.
Many times in Scripture, we see that the Lord himself withdrew into periods of silence. “Now when Jesus heard this (the death of John the Baptist), he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place for himself.” -Matthew 14:13. The Lord recognized the need for silence. The need to be alone and sit to hear the quiet voice of the Lord. He taught the apostles by example. He showed them the importance of seeking the voice of God in silence. The Lord is showing us that in quiet stillness is where we, too, find God. He understood the power of silence.
Many of us fear the Lord’s voice and really quieting our hearts. We don’t like the vulnerability that comes with quieting our thoughts. These periods of quiet may lead us to become introspective and find real areas of our hearts that need our attention and healing. It is easier to escape or silence God’s voice than to embrace that which our heart desires. We stuff our feelings and concern way down into our hearts until we become numb. We shut out those quiet voices of love and truth that the Lord wishes to speak to our heart.
St. Augustine said, “Our hearts will not rest, Lord. Until they rest in you.”
What are the fruits of silence?
Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.”Cardinal Sarah
Silence can lead us to a deeper sense of self. As we slow down and take times of silence, we calm the anxious spirit within. The transformation begins physically, as we slow down our heart rate, and our breathing deepens and slows.
As we begin to calm ourselves physically, we can then begin to calm ourselves inwardly. We start to clear our mind of those anxious thoughts and burdens that lead to headaches and stress. We just sit. We let the silence envelop us. We begin to feel true peace. We begin to pray that we may hear the voice of the Lord.
As with any habit, the more we work on entering into these periods of silence, the greater the likelihood of creating this lasting environment in your prayer time. It is in the quiet that the Lord will continue to speak into our hearts.
A few Lents ago, I remember asking the Lord what I should give up. “I want you to observe more moments of silence.” OK? I remember feeling like that seemed inadequate for Lent. What else, Lord? I prayed. Nothing. As Lent continued, the Lord beckoned to my heart, “I want you to stop and just be with me throughout your day.” The Lord was asking me to unite with Him in silence in the middle of all the “noise” of my day. I would be driving in the car, and stop for a few minutes and enter into silence. I gave up listening to music on my car ride to Bible study so I could be with Him. My children would walk into the kitchen, and I would be standing at the sink in silence for a few minutes. What the Lord was teaching me was that He was always right there. I was seeking moments with Him in adoration, and at Church, and in my morning prayer time. He was reminding me that He is always with me…in the silence.
The Lord wants us to see that He is always close to us. He desires for us to pull away from the distractions of this world to unite with Him. We will want our lives to undergo healing. We want to be drawn to the heart of the Lord. We want to hear what the Lord desires for us.
Seek out silence today. Spend a few minutes after reading this post clearing your mind and just “being” with the Lord. He is our best friend. There is no awkward silence with the lover of our souls.
These four words should beckon to us.
God is waiting in the quiet.
He awaits you, His Beloved.