For God alone my soul waits in silence.
We are not generally a silent people. Even in the quietness of our homes, there is noise–lots and lots and lots of noise. (Because there is a somewhat demanding Black Lab barking at me right now!) Silence seems to elude us. On some level, it takes a lot of time and that is a hard thing to come by. And, to be honest, in my world, I’m not even sure it exists. There is always something making noise. So how does my soul wait in silence? How does my soul find that rhythm that it so desperately needs, the natural rhythm of noise and silence. Maybe we could employ some of that white noise that is supposed to drown out other noises. Would that work? But isn’t that just more noise? We work hard at honing our communication skills. And yet, communication is not just about talking; it’s about that rhythm of expression and listening, of noise and silence. We need silence sometimes. It is part of the rhythm of life. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “we need to find God, and [God] cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
So, why is silence so hard to find? Are we unsure of ourselves, a little reticent about what we might hear, perhaps a little fearful of what we might be asked to do? So, we try to fill the emptiness with noise. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure that “pure” silence really exists. There’s always something making noise. Perhaps “keeping silence” is more about returning to a natural level of noise than it is stopping all noise itself. In her book, When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about an experience by composer John Cage’s time in an anechoic chamber (a room without echoes). With his perfect hearing, he picked up two distinct sounds–one high and one low. When he described them to the engineer in charge, he was told that the high sound was his nervous sytem in operation, and the low one was his blood in circulation. Noise is part of life. Keeping silence is not about existing in pure silence; it is about living in pure life, in Creation. And yet, most of us live most of our lives in noise–artificial noise, the noise of the world, rather than the noise of Creation.
If you go back and read the story of Creation, it began in silence. I think it probably began in “pure” silence, in a void (implying that perhaps “pure” silence is not meant to exist at all). And then God spoke us (along with everything else) into being. In her book, Taylor says, “in his poetic eulogy “The World of Silence”, the French philosopher Max Picard says that silence is the central place of faith, where we give the Word back to the God from whom we first received it. Surrendering the Word, we surrender the medium of our creation. We unsay ourselves, voluntarily returning to the source of our being, where we must trust God to say us once again.”
In this Lenten journey, we talk about journeying, about surrendering. We talk about re-aligning our lives with what God envisions for us, and we talk about change. But maybe the part we’re missing is where we don’t talk–I mean, INTENTIONALLY, enter into silence. Shhhhh! Let God say you into being again. (And now I’m going to quit talking!)
There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence. (Meister Eckhart)
At this point in your Lenten journey, just be silent. Just listen. Just wait to be unsaid.
Grace and Peace,