Sitting In Silence

My head is a very noisy place. While I’m sitting in my quiet living room, among other noises, I hear the noise of thinking through this article, the whispering demands of multiple aspects to my business, the intrigue of the Denver Broncos coaching the Senior Bowl, the angst of wondering when we’ll find the right quarterback, the reminder that a friend wants me to read an article and share my thoughts on it, and the rush of knowing that my kids will be coming home soon, at which time this apparent silence will be gone.

But is it really silent?

In our last article, we considered the idea that we can explore God from a place of safety. So what is the initial response to safety?

Psalm 46:1,10 say,

“God is our safe place…Be quiet.”

Our initial posture toward safety should be silence.

Thomas Merton once said,

“If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life’s leisure into work, and real by turning our being into doing, we will only succeed at producing a hell on earth.”

Consider where I was at when I first began this article. Sure, the room is quiet. But my mind was racing. My body and mouth were quiet. But my heart was beating hard.

Even our times of corporate worship are bound to racing minds, moving tongues, and beating hearts. The moment the musicians play an eight measure intro, rather than four, we feel awkward and don’t know what to do. The third time we sing the bridge, we think surely we’ll end it after the fourth time through because to extend it would be awkward. The Sunday that the drummer or the bass guitarist do not show up, we feel angst that the sound won’t be as full or strong. We choose songs that are packed with theological detail after detail. We fill all the spaces with sound. We replace the enjoyment and tasting of the music and sacraments with the production of it. And rather than simply being with the ever present I Am (the essence of being), we turn the entire gathering into various things that we do.

It’s no wonder that our minds and hearts racing like this lead tend to amplify the inner contradictions of life.

Thomas Merton describes this as,

“Living in a silence which so reconciles the contradictions within us that, although they remain within us, they cease to be a problem.”

When we know and feel that we are safe, our minds, hearts, and bodies can rest in silence.

Deep, inner silence is the absence of angst, the emptying of fear, the being okay with not having to immediately solve every contradiction or answer every critique.

Eventually we will begin to sense, speak, and sing. But before we can be filled with a song, we must be emptied in silence.

My desire is that the opposite of the first paragraph in this article will be true of me. In that paragraph, I sat in a silent room with a noisy heart. My desire is to be able to sit in a noisy room with a silent heart. But to get there, we need to know and feel that we are safe with our good Father. And from there, we will be truly free to sense the world around us.

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