“I have a need of silence and of stars.
Too much is said too loudly. I am dazed.
The silken sound of whirled infinity
Is lost in voices shouting to be heard.”
William Alexander Percy’s words have been running through my mind on and off throughout the summer. In a home of three healthy, vibrant testosterone-laden little boys, silence during the summer is a rarity. In the midst of the trampoline soccer sessions and the Lego trading floor, I found myself longing for the proximate silence that having only the little fella home once school began would provide.
However, now that my boys have been back in school for a few weeks, I have been reminded that stewarding silence and stillness is a struggle. As much as I have craved it and cried out for it, I had forgotten that silence can be terribly uncomfortable.
Daily it is a wrestle for me to get myself to my favorite spot on the couch by the window for long enough to have my heart stilled. There is always another load of laundry I could fold, another email I could send, another sermon I could listen to, or another book I could read. My flesh resists quietness before God, which is all the more reason to fight for it. It seems our enemy and our shadow selves know the rich benefits that only silence before God can offer.
Bonhoeffer, in his thin treasure of a book called Life Together, defines silence as “the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God.” He continues, “Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing.”
Andrew Murray writes something similar in With Christ in the School of Prayer. He explains that all true prayer can only begin when we are stilled enough before God to truly say and mean the simple phrase, “My Father sees, my father hears, my father knows.” That sounds simple, right? It’s only three three-word phrases; however, it is no simple thing for a human heart to be able to say and believe them.
Much of my time on the couch is spent attempting to empty my heart of noise, fears, worries and self-sufficiency by the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. It is far easier to stifle silence by quickly filling it with noise or words or to selfishly squander silence than to steward it.
Mother Theresa taught the Sisters of Charity about the need for silence. “Listen in silence, because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.” She goes on to say, “I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
You know I love me some ethereal pondering, but here are some practical ideas to steward silence:
Leave your phone charging in another room while you sleep and during your stolen moments of silence. God gets the first and last word of the day.
Take a walk or hike in a local park or nature center. I do this even with my three yahoos in tow. Even though it is far from silent, God usually gives me a few moments of intimacy with Him somewhere in there. Additionally, this sets a precedent and pattern for our children that being quiet and out in God’s creation is valuable and fun.
Drive a few times a day without the radio. It’s amazing how much time we spend in the car. Little stolen moments add up.
Much depends on our sitting in silence and stillness before God. Much peace is lost, a peace with God that Christ died to secure for us. Many seeds of good works that might have been planted in silence are not sown.
The struggle is real and ongoing, but it is worth the fight to steward our silence.