Lingering among silences makes us feel like toddlers entering the nursery on Sunday mornings. When our parent drops us off, we feel abandoned. We either tantrum about, or we cling to anything or anyone that promises to hold us.
Why We Hate Silence
Charles Spurgeon, the old Baptist preacher, explains why. “Quietude, some men cannot abide,” he says, “because it reveals their inner poverty.”
Take away the crutches we use to hold up our fix-it, know-it, and be-everywhere personas, and the broken legs of our intimacy with God buckle. “Priceless as the gift of utterance may be,” he says, “the practice of silence in some aspects far excels it.” He adds:
I am persuaded that most of us think too much of speech, which after all is but the shell of thought. Quiet contemplation, still worship, unuttered rapture . . . rob not your heart of the deep sea joys; miss not the far-down life, by forever babbling among the broken shells and foaming surges of the shore.
Why We Need Silence
Quiet is a means of God’s grace.
Within it, God shows us our inner poverty and misguided ambitions. He has waited patiently with a quiet heart while we’ve brewed our lives into storm and froth constantly interrupting him. Now that we are finally silent, he has healing to speak, mending to perform.
We have held on to fixing, knowing, and being everywhere as fast and as famous as we can, like a toddler who can’t go a day without his blankie. But there comes a time when the toddler must age into wisdom and learn to sleep without it.
The first night and day of trying this are detox ugly. But soon, the rest comes and the freedom blesses all in the house.
Where do we Begin?
We start by admitting our need for the convictions and practices of the wise. James 1:19-22 reveals such convictions plainly. Wisdom is found when we grow (1) quick to listen (2) slow to speak or vent, (3) filtering out that which is not of God in our inner being and (4) pursing the word implanted so that we (5) do according to what is true in community.
We continue to admit with John Calvin who commented on this verse that:
We do not calmly hear God speaking to us, when we seem to ourselves to be very wise, but by our haste interrupt him when addressing us. . . . And, doubtless, no one can be a true disciple of God, except he hears him in silence . . . but he would only have us to correct and restrain our forwardness, that we may not, as it commonly happens, unseasonably interrupt God, and that as long as he opens his sacred mouth, we may open to him our hearts and our ears, and not prevent him to speak.
Now we slow down in ordinary conversation. We do not say the first reasonings that come to our minds even if these quick thoughts in our mind are accurate and true. We do not vent the first emotional stirrings that prod us, even those strongest for attention such as anger. We practice the truth that we are not the first ones upon this scene. God is here. His reasonings and responses take the lead. Ours is to follow, listen, attend, wait and then from the silence of having waited upon Him, we say a word.
There is a time for everything . . . a time to keep silence
Thanks to Matt Tully, this post is partially adapted from Zack’s book, The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus.