Silence is Golden

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

Yesterday I came across two different passages about noise and silence.  The first one I discovered while looking through Thomas Merton’s book, No Man is an Island.   The second one I discovered in a posting from “R120”on Facebook.  It is a passage from another one of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen.  I want to share these two passages with you today and then make a couple of observations.

Merton wrote: “Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else.  They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness.  The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength.  The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone.  The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart.  It is the silence of the world that is real.  Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion.  God is present, and His thought is alive and awake in the fullness and depth and breadth of all the silences of the world.”

Nouwen wrote: “Few of us can fully appreciate the terrible conspiracy of noise there is about us, noise that denies us the silence and solitude we need for this cultivation of the inner garden. It would not be hard to believe that the archenemy of God has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with the interfering noises of civilization that, when left unmuffled, usually drown out the voice of God. He who walks with God will tell you plainly, God does not ordinarily shout to make Himself heard. As Elijah discovered, God tends to whisper in the garden.”

These two passages speak of the importance of silence in the spiritual journey and also to how difficult it can be to actually experience silence.  The world we live in is filled with noise.  Whether you live in a rural setting or an urban one there’s a lot of noise to contend with.  Needless to say, most of this noise is necessary.  The machines and appliances we use and enjoy all make noise.  The problem is this noise can, if we are not careful, keep us from hearing God’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) and seeing Him in the world around us.

Over the centuries many of the masters of Christian spirituality have written about the importance of silence in the spiritual life.  They concur that we all need periods of silence and solitude in order to commune with God.  Experiencing silence, however, does not necessarily come easy.  Some people do everything they can to avoid silence.  I run across such people on a consistent basis.  Many people actually fear silence because there is something about silence that forces them to look within and to matters of the soul.  They intentionally fill their lives with noise so that they do not have to think of these things. Such people need to realize that silence is a vital component of the spiritual life.

Others desire silence but find it hard to obtain.  Here’s where I think nature can be of great help.  Although you will rarely, if ever, find complete silence in nature you will often find in God’s Creation a refuge from the noises that tend to distract us at home or in the workplace.  I realize that not everyone has easy access to quiet natural areas but many of us do.  We need to take advantage of these places.  In the stillness of Creation we can see and hear God in ways that might not come so readily elsewhere.

I encourage you to be intentional about seeking silence in your life, whether that be outdoors or indoors.  In my experience, silence truly is golden.  It is of the utmost value because it helps me experience more fully my wonderful God and Savior.

–Chuck

p.s. If you are on Facebook I would encourage you to search for and “like” the site “R120.”  Michael Boone posts wonderful inspirational quotes about nature at this site on a regular basis.  In case you’re wondering,  R120 stands for Romans 1:20.

(I took the top image at Big Bend National Park, the middle image at Death Valley National Park, and the bottom image at Jackson, New Hampshire.)