Last week Mary Ann wrote about being on retreat, and I was on that same retreat. It was a silent retreat and at the place we stayed, there were signs scattered about reminding everyone of that.
Seeing the various signs made me reflect on silence and how rare it is in our day and time. Silence can be very scary and intimidating to some, but it is a great gift when embraced and welcomed in our lives.
One of the popular passages of Scripture that is often used on retreats is when Elijah meets God on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-13). God tells Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by.” At first there came a fierce, driving wind that was so strong it crushed rocks, “but the Lord was not in the wind.”
Then came a big earthquake shaking things up, “but the Lord was not in the earthquake.”
After the earthquake came fire — and you know the refrain now — “but the Lord was not in the fire.”
Finally after the fire, “a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak…”
It was in silence that Elijah “heard” the Lord and was awed by His presence.
Make some space for silence
We have a lot of noise in our lives and many voices competing for our attention — children, spouses, television commercials, our own chaotic thoughts, deadlines, etc. It’s hard for God to get a word in edgewise.
An annual retreat is a wonderful chance to carve out some space in order to listen to God, get some clarity on the direction our lives are going in and to make some needed adjustments and changes. But instead of just waiting to get quiet and listen once a year, I suggest we try to incorporate some space for silence everyday.
How can we do this?
- Be aware — becoming aware of how lacking silence is in my life is step #1. Do I realize how often I turn to my phone, click on some music, call a friend, or leave the TV on in the background? Do I need a constant drone of noise to accompany me in whatever I am doing?
- Ask myself why — if I realize I have very little silence in my day, I can ask myself “Why?” Am I afraid of silence? Overwhelmed? Bored? Not wanting to hear what God might say to me? Scared of what pain might bubble up? Or too tired to even still my soul?
- Give it a try (see steps below)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:25-30.
Jesus wants to gather us to Himself, to console us, strengthen us, nurture us, and supply for all our needs. But the key is that we come to Him, quieting our souls and taking some time to be silent.
I am going to give you a few simple steps to help you incorporate more silence into your life.
- Sit down and close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Repeat. Repeat again.
- Listen. To your heartbeat. To the sounds around you. To your breathing.
- End with a “thank you” — thank God for one thing.
- Done. Get up and continue with what you were doing.
See how easy that was? Start with one minute, snatched from your busy day. Then work up to doing it two or three times throughout your day. Maybe increase the one minute segment to 2-3 minutes.
Soon you will find yourself craving these “time outs” and making sure to fit them in.
And God will begin to speak to you, and you will hear His voice.