It’s a bit of a stretch to say that I am able to find much silence much less enjoy it.
If the ear buds aren’t in, the TV is on, Spotify is playing, family voices rattle around wherever it is we call home for the moment and those few singular moments of quiet are generally because my brain is gobbling up words or my hands are scribing them into my leather bound Moleskin for pondering at some later point.
I am a busy person internally and externally which is to say I am really, really normal.
So, when the Reverend Anne Elise at Trinity Methodist in Newport, Wales encouraged us to take 5-10 minutes to silently contemplate during the simplicity of a beautiful Ash Wednesday service I got a little nervous.
Can I “silently contemplate” by journaling some obviously amazing thoughts? Can I “silently contemplate” by reading Psalm 51 again? How about if perusing the order of service or make a poorly executed doodle on the side of my program?
“Gareth, could you please, after a few minutes play something quietly for those who are unaccustomed to the discipline of silence?” she said to the pianist seated to my right.
Unaccustomed to the discipline of silence? Whaa!?
Oh… That’s me. This is hard work.
It took about 90 seconds to feel even a little bit aware that silence was present. Another few minutes to actively squelch the ever present To Do list of obligations and observations.
Finally, as the strains of “Bread & Wine” filtered through the room, it seemed as though I could be just, well, Silent. Of course, by then, it was time to do something else.
Sigh. That is my life.
This all got me thinking.
What IS the discipline of silence? When is the first time, in the Bible, where people are told to be “SILENT”. Biblegateway is totes my friend, here.
Deuteronomy 27:9 was a surprising find.
“Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying, ‘Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God.'”
After the introduction of what it means to follow God, they were told to “shut up and listen” because their whole identity had changed.
They were now, had by the act of their obedience and will, become those who were “for the Lord your God.”
And it happened in silence… So they could listen. So they could hear.
The rest of the book talks about what happens if they disobey or quit following Hashem and it’s all dire and terrifying and sadly, not enough deterrent to keep them faithful for very long.
Much of God’s admonition to His people in the first five books of the Bible are the things that we struggle with: being honest, faithful, holy, honourable to our spouse and family, maintaining integrity in our lives, and above all, serving God wholeheartedly.
We are great at lazy, selfish, narcissistic, angry, and fearful. Without even trying I can be offensive all day, every day. It’s by trying that I’m not. Mostly.
Knowing that about us, our gracious Father spoke in His Word to those specific areas. His Spirit speaks to us here to point us in the direction of Holiness so, as we practice it, we can begin t0 recognize the times we approach it and the times it is abandoned all together.
Here’s the thing. Here’s what it has to do with silence. You can’t hear someone when you are the one doing all the talking. And that reminds of me of another time when God’s people were supposed to listen…
“Hear, O Israel. The Lord is your God. The Lord is One.”
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be using this space, on the Sabbath, to talk about what it takes to intentionally pursue listening God in Silence.
Leaning on Him,