I say that I want silence, but I am not convinced that I do.
The noise in my home begins at 8 am each day, and the final silence begins around midnight. When you raise older teens alongside young children, quiet space comes in tiny pockets, bathroom breaks, a stolen afternoon hour. When the blessed silence appears, what do I normally do? I “listen” to the noise of the Internet. I escape into pixels + photos, not allowing room for the quiet to make space in my soul. In the midst of silence, I am not silent at all.
I am listening to a new podcast by Ruth Haley Barton and in episode 2, she has a conversation about silence and solitude. She says that when we choose solitude, we are “being present to the One who is always present with us.” We sit in silence to come home to ourselves in His presence. We are able to own the truth of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly, from cultivating solitude as a place to simply be in the love of God. From the place of love, the truth can come out.
Being silent doesn’t come easy. We have mind-chatter, anxiety, an incessant desire to grab our phone. The good news is that we get to know ourselves better through this–we see that we are not good at being still, not good at waiting on God. We recognize that we do not trust God with the things that aren’t getting done while we sit. We don’t trust that He can lead us into what we need. Choosing silence and solitude is an expression of trust, of relinquishing control. We stink at that.
Ruth says that it took a year for her to get comfortable with even 10 minutes of daily silence. Palms open, no reading, no praying, only being with God. This reminds me that learning the rhythms of new spiritual disciplines requires practice. We don’t show up “ready” and amazing, connected and content. We simply show up. Every day. We may not see or experience the fruit of silence in the midst of it. It may feel awful, vulnerable, and mock our demand for doing. The fruit of silence may reveal itself in the way we live the rest of the day, our centeredness, resting in our belovedness, an ability to give a good word to another.
We often give up on the practice of silence and solitude because of the bad feelings and the unease. This is not instant spiritual gratification or transformation. This is building a lifestyle of responding to God and practicing what we aren’t good at: giving up control. We come and we sit in His presence. We wait. This changes us, little by little. We sit still long enough for the “sediment of our soul to settle”. It *will* settle, if we give it time. His voice will come, His presence near and dear. An invitation to restful love.
This summer I want to cultivate silence. I want to sit for those 10 minutes without doing, without giving words, without spiritually striving. I want to sit with Jesus, my kind companion, my gentle Lord, the lover and caretaker of my soul. I want to listen and receive. I want to be okay with my undoneness, my limits, my personal chaos. I will fail at all of it. But He loves to touch those places in us, healing us, soothing us. Cosmos to our chaos.
May we receive Him, sitting still, open-handed, willing, and open. Jesus, come.