Cultivating Silence

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. Psalm 62:5

Something that has been impactful to me in my walk with the Lord has been integrating quiet/silence into my life. It hasn’t been easy. Life get’s busy, and it’s an odd thing: I’ve found that when you intentionally seek to create more quiet and silence in your life, you discover how much noise is continually crowding in, and sometimes (oftentimes), it is from within us that the noise comes. Silence is something that we need to cultivate. In Psalm 62:5 we see a word in Hebrew for the kind of silencing of oneself that I’m referring to, it is: dâmam. It means to silence oneself, wait, rest, and by implication, to stop. Once we make that space to stop and wait, it is so easy to experience our minds wander from one thing to the next. So, the thing is, to cultivate silence doesn’t just mean to be quiet. We can have that moment of quiet, but inwardly be very noisy. Whether it is worry, fear, insecurities, the running queue of schedules, or maybe even just interests, hobbies, and ambitions, it takes discipline to turn it all off. It is a learning process. I believe that cultivating physical silence is important to unlocking our experience of inward silence, unto experiencing peace – which, I believe is really what our hearts long for.

Here are some reasons that I’ve found quiet and silence to be an avenue to experiencing greater inner peace:

It postures us to better hear the Lord: As the part of an upside-down Kingdom (or, rather, a right-side-up Kingdom in an upside-down world), the call to silence, stillness, and the secret place is counter-cultural to the loud, attention-demanding society that we live in. Often, the Lord speaks in a still, small voice, which means that if our lives are filled with noise, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to hear.

Silence reminds us of our journey: The world has much to say. The noise of media and the ready opinion of crowds in social media are like an air horn into our minds. But silence presents the opportunity to remind us that we are created for so much more. Henri Nouwen said, “To be silent keeps us pilgrims.” When we seek quiet, and relinquish the need to fill the void, we have the opportunity to be reminded of the journey of where we’ve been, and themes that we’ve experienced through our lives. This remembering can be a catalyst for peace, because it reminds us of the Lord’s faithfulness, how He’s led us in the past, and helps to us to frame any difficulties that we’re experiencing in perspective of the “big picture” of our lives.

It teaches us the power of words: As King Solomon reminded us, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Learning to listen, instead of speaking whatever is on our minds or interjecting our opinions, teaches us the power of words. When we allow others to talk, and lay down our needs and listen, we have a chance to understand others better. I’ve found that fighting the need to speak helps me to speak more succinctly into difficult situations, and it helps me to ‘let go’ of little things that don’t matter so much.

Praxis

Stop on the outside

It can be hard to find quiet, but it’s worth fighting for.

Here are some ideas to start cultivating quiet:

  • Driving in silence with the radio off.
  • Taking lunch break to eat in silence: turning off your cell phone, and finding a secluded place to eat and pray.
  • Choosing to be quiet instead of spending time watching TV or being on social media.
  • Taking a hiatus from, or quitting social media.
  • Waking up early before the rest of the house, or staying up a little later than everyone else.
  • Plan an afternoon of solitude.
  • Go for a walk or hike, and be in nature.

Stop on the inside

When you take a break, put down your plans and agendas for this period of quiet. Surrender to the Lord. Practice, in that moment, being Mary at the feet of Jesus, recognizing that we can trust His leading on what we should do and where we should go…but for now, listen and wait.

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Invite the Lord’s presence and pray for the grace to experience His peace in the quiet.
  • Take notice of what thoughts are the filling your mind. Surrender those things to the Lord.
  • Rest and be silent. Don’t feel that you need to move on. *Setting a timer sometimes aids in not having to think about time if you’re on a schedule.

Blessings to you as you cultivate silence in your life.

 

Being Simply on Mission: walking with God, durable love, and justice

Compassion and justice blended
call us to simplicity of life.
Richard Foster

In western society, it’s common to have a habit of making life so complex. We tend to fill our schedules, clutter our homes, and the amount of technology in our lives tends to crowd our minds as well. It’s easy to feel stressed out and unable to find quiet. Not only that, but I (with so many others) long to have meaningful lives, not the status quo of an anxious society. We long for something that will reflect our hope in Christ, and make us feel connected to God’s mission of redemption and hope. Lately, I’ve been meditating on Micah 6:8,

He has showed you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy/kindness,and to walk humbly with our God?

A word that shows up in the Old Testament quite a bit, and is often translated “mercy,” is the word “Chesed.” Chesed is defined as covenantal love, or love that doesn’t quit. That is why it is also as translated sometimes as steadfast love or lovingkindness. I like how Richard Foster puts it in his book Freedom of Simplicity, he calls it: durable love. Here in Micah 6:8, as in many occasions throughout the Old Testament, this chesed/durable love is the word that we see translated “mercy.” This call to Israel in Micah’s time, as well as (I believe) to us in our time, is to live a focused life of justice, durable love, and a humble walk with the Lord. What would it look like to live an integrated life – not just in immediate places of caring relationships, but also in our apartment complexes, coffee shops, and grocery stores? Developing transparency and vulnerability into our relationships, and living out of a central conviction that we are beloved by God means a vibrant sincerity in our relationships, whether that means: laughing or crying. It enjoys people, and it means we spend less time taking ourselves seriously, so that we can take compassion very seriously. This durable love is something that, if we let it define our motivations, will shape our decisions in our everyday lives.

It’s not glamorous. It is often understated, and steady: it shows up. It forgives. It is humble and meek. It’s a pursuit toward maturity, and often that means brokenness: falling down and picking yourself up again (or rather, letting the arms of Christ pick us back up again). But it is always on the journey to finding and living out of your true self and becoming more alive in love. Durable love.