The Gift of Silence
As a minister, especially as one whose too busy mind can think in a day of more than one person—or congregation—can or should do in a year, I have felt the need to deepen my prayer life in ways that would slow me down so I may hear God’s still, small voice more clearly and follow the leadings of God’s Spirit more nearly than my own plans, purposes and ambitions.
During the week of my first Shalem residency, I learned to hear spoken words with renewed freshness, with a keener sense of the reality of the meaning of those words, as opposed to what I hoped or over-interpreted those words to mean. Perhaps more importantly, in my case, I was reminded of the power of silence for preparing the whole person to experience the reality of God and God’s love.
That is not to undercut the value of words and our attempts to communicate verbally. Words matter. Human beings are shaped by words; communities are shaped by words. Words hurt, and words heal. Words tear down, and words build. Words manipulate, reflect trust and despair, evoke hope. Living within the words of God, living into the blessings of God as the every moment practice of our lives can radically transform how we see ourselves and how we see others in God’s world.
Words matter, but in silence—the undervalued practice and quality of our age of more-louder-faster-consumption—we can, with time and discipline, learn to be more available to the real presence of God. We can begin to sense the loving space between ourselves and God and between ourselves and others. We can begin to hear God’s words of blessing beyond our minds (in our cognitive, rational abilities) and our hearts (in emotions or emotionalism) to a sense of God’s presence and blessing within our hearts, in the classic sense of our full awareness, body-mind-and-soul, as human beings.