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Practicing Silence

by in Features

Most mornings I wake up to the sound of the local radio station coming from my clock radio. If I’m really tired, I sleep until the “sounds of spring” ring-tone blares from my cell phone. I keep the radio on as I get ready to leave the house and then I get in my car and plug in my ipod so I can listen to my music as I drive. In the office I click my favorite play lists on my laptop. And on and on it goes. If I don’t have music, I’m usually with people; talking people, laughing people, noisy people. If I’m alone, I’m often chatting on my phone or responding to the beeps and dings telling me I need to answer text messages or voice mail. In the night I might go to the church for a music practice, or a Bible study complete with lots of discussion. I might stay home with my husband and watch TV or a movie. Often, I even go to sleep with music playing. My life is full of sound. I once realized during a busy weekend that the only time things were relatively silent was when I was in the bathroom. There is a lot of noise in my life. And I think I’m normal. I bet you are too.

Think about your day so far. Unless you were writing an exam or in a study period or somewhere else where silence is required, you’ve probably had a noisy day too.

We aren’t good at silence. We find it boring, unsettling and even scary! If you’re like me, silence on the outside means there’s still plenty of noise on the inside. All the thoughts, the fears, the feelings, the to-do lists and deadlines creep in and become noise in our brains! I think that’s why we like noise. It blocks out and distracts us from our own thoughts and more importantly we could miss God trying to get our attention and talk with us.

It would be good for your soul to take regular time to be silent and reflect on your own life and on God. It might be as little as few minutes once in a while or, like some people through history have done, a whole lifetime! I once heard of a monk who carried a stone in his mouth for three years in order to learn the discipline of silence! Crazy huh?! Silent time can be used to talk to God about your life and problems or you might think about God and tell him how thankful you are for what He has done for you. Some people use the silence to read the Bible and think about what God is trying to teach them through it. Some people (those who don’t fall asleep easily!) just want to sit and listen for God’s voice.

Beyond the reasons above, you might still be wondering why you should spend time in silence? One reason is because Jesus did if you’re trying to know and follow him then he’s set the example for you. How do we know that Jesus spent times in silence? Well, the Bible talks about it. Check out these verses in a Bible: Matthew 14:13 and Mark 1:35. They talk about Jesus getting away from people and distractions to spend time with His Father. In fact in Luke 5:16 it actually says, “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” (The Message) We can be pretty sure He didn’t bring a cell or and ipod with him! Those were quiet places. No traffic, no one else’s loud music, no crowds. What did he do there? Sometimes we’re not told but often he went to pray. You think if Jesus needed time in silence to talk to God, we need the same?

Do you know someone who talks all the time? The kind of person you hang out with and realize once they’ve gone that you haven’t said much more than “uh-huh” and “yeah” for hours? Do ever wonder if they even hear you when you do get a word in? It’s hard to listen while we’re making noise. That’s another reason we need to be silent. So we can hear what God is saying to us. Does God speak to us out loud? Will we hear an actual voice? Some people have heard God in an audible way but normally we don’t. God speaks to us through the Bible, through our thoughts, through conversations we’ve had with other people, through nature, just to name a few. When we are silent and we ask God to speak to us, he may bring those things to our minds. A verse we’ve read and forgotten about or wise words someone said to us and we didn’t really pay attention to at the time. A picture of a starry night at camp when you could feel the awesomeness of God. By spending time in silence and asking God to speak to us we are also getting ourselves ready to hear from God at other times in the day. When we take time to focus our thoughts on God, we tend to be more aware of Him once we leave the silence as well.

Check out this story about how God speaks. It’s about a guy named Elijah and it’s found in the bible at 1 Kings 19:5-13. Notice that it was in the quietness that God gave Elijah the words and encouragement he needed to go on and continue doing God’s work.

Finally, the discipline of silence is a good one to practice because it helps us to practice other spiritual disciplines. Reading the Bible, praying, fasting, living simply, and taking Sabbath rest are all made even more meaningful if we add silence to the mix. We tend to pray and read better if we’re quiet. We can focus on why we fast more if we take time in silent thought. When we simplify our lives we tend to find more times of quietness. We rest better in quietness.

So, does God want you to stop talking entirely? Should people who follow Jesus give up all music, TV, and socializing so that we can wait and listen for God to speak to us? Of course not!

But here are some things you can do to take moments of silence whenever you can.

1. Next time you have to walk somewhere, leave the ear-buds out. Look around and thank God for His creation.

2. If you drive, next time you get in the car leave the music off for a while and pray for people you know.

3. Make your time reading the bible a time of silence. Turn off the computer and put the phone on silent. If someone calls they will leave you a message!

4. Be sure to schedule your quiet times around what works best. If it takes an hour for your brain to start working the morning, try evenings instead.

5. There may be times when you actually have the chance to take a day or a weekend to practice silence. Maybe you have a cottage or a cabin you can escape to with some friends or your family. Take a few hours alone with God on the dock or under a tree.

6. Working at camp this summer? Take advantage of the times when your campers are still asleep or the weekends when there are no kids around to spend some time alone and silent.

:: by Valerie Barter of St. John’s, Newfoundland

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