Years ago, when our daughter and her family lived in the duplex apartment next door to us, my three grandkids would pop in to visit unannounced. One day, the 10-year old made an entrance and found me sitting on my couch in silence. I was not reading or working on a craft or watching television or even listening to a radio. Mandy was concerned. Was everything all right? Little Miss Busy Person could not figure out how I could be sitting there in silence. Of course, I reassured her that I was fine and just collecting my thoughts and enjoying the quiet.
At least once a year, I try to attend a silent weekend retreat at a retreat house in Massachusetts. There are inspirational sessions each day led by the retreat presenters, but for the rest of the time the retreatants do not intermingle or socialize. We pray and talk to God, read, and take peaceful walks around the lovely grounds. We take time to rest and refresh.
A long time ago, I went on a six-day silent retreat. That was really a shock to my active life. I had to get used to not seeking eye contact or exchanging friendly greetings with other retreatants I would pass in the hallways or at meals. However, I visited the reservation chapels many times, I read my Bible, I prayed, I journaled, I felt the closeness of the Lord in a very comforting way. He spoke to me in marriage images. He put happiness in my heart. He filled my silence.
So today I am touting the praises of occasional times of silence. Silence is almost counter-cultural during these days of hi-tech electronics and constant media bombardment. We are a very audibly-informed society. We might need to enforce radio silence—-like a submarine—and take a dive into quiet for a little while.
Why should we opt for silence occasionally? In the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, Jesus affirmed Mary’s choice of quietly sitting at his feet to listen to him. Also, we read in a number of gospel passages, such as Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:15-16, that Jesus withdrew from everything and everyone and prayed by himself. Silence helps us to listen and pray. In the silence, we can converse with God and listen to his responses in our hearts. He teaches us. He gives us hope.
Psalm 37a tells us to “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him” and Psalm 62:5-6 says, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”
There are so many distractions in our lives today, so many warnings about illness, distancing, and sanitizing. So many manufacturers want us to look at their wares and go online and buy, buy, buy. Silence is a way to step away and find God and ourselves. Lamentations 3:26 says, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord,” and in Ecclesiastes 3:7b we read about a time for everything: "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”
We don’t have to pursue silence for long stretches at a time, but we can gauge the need by our own temperament and tolerance. We can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Now, I will stop blogging and be silent for a while.
Photo credit: Pablo Orcaray
The scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.