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Embracing Silence

We live in a noisy world. TV, Radio, podcasts, phone calls, music, every single phone app and notification under the sun, all create noise in our lives. Noise is so present that when we experience a moment of silence it can be as unsettling as it is refreshing. Many of us have become so acclimated to the noise that we don’t know what to do without it. Yet silence is an incredibly important part of the spiritual life. It is in silence that we often become aware of God’s presence and are able to hear God speak. This was certainly the case for the prophet Elijah.

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” -1 Kings 19:11-13

Here we see that it was only in the silence, not in the noise of rocks breaking and winds blowing, that Elijah could hear God speak. Many theologians and spiritually mature people make the link between knowledge of God and knowledge of self. 

Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God. -John Calvin

Knowledge of self can be a reason that we avoid silence, for when we tune out the noise of life we become aware of those deep thoughts and feelings within ourselves that we have been trying so hard to avoid. When we engage those thoughts and feelings we learn more about ourselves, which in turn helps us better know and hear God. 

The spiritual life will only grow so deep unless we regularly practice silence, but silence in the spiritual sense isn’t primarily the lack of auditory sounds. Silence is an inner stillness and attention that allows us to be present to the moment, one’s self, and God. In this way it is possible to practice silence on a busy city street, just as there can be a lot of noise (mentally and emotionally) in a room with no audible sound at all. 

Practicing silence often begins by taking time to turn off the auditory and visual stimulation in our lives. That means turning off the TV and Radio, putting down the cell phone, and closing the computer. It is only when we give ourselves space that we can begin to listen to God and our own thoughts and feelings. Silence takes practice and dedication, especially in our noisy world. The noisiness of the world is precisely why silence is so important and so needed in order to foster a healthy relationship with God and one’s self.

Practicing silence is not always easy for me, but I have had enough experience with it to know of its importance in cultivating a healthy spiritual life, that is a deep knowledge of God and God’s presence. I encourage you to take time for silence each day. If you are already doing that, wonderful, keep it up. If you aren’t, take 5 minutes each day, shut off the noise and listen, to your own heart and for God’s voice. It's a practice of dedication, which means you may not see results immediately, but it is worth it.

Be still and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth! -Ps. 46:10

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Brian

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