When we were first married, I gave my wife a Bible verse: Psalm 46:10; more specifically (because when proof-texting, it's important to be precise!) Psalm 46:10a. And I thought it appropriate, because my wife was (and often still is) in near-constant motion, working and helping and learning and doing. And as her less-active, less-energized, less-busy husband, I thought it wise to point out that stillness was a quality to be valued.
Except I was a total hypocrite. There was no silence, no solitude, no stillness in my life. I was not in constant motion, like my wife...but I was in constant 'input mode.' Either my TV or my radio or my stereo was always on. I went to bed with earbuds in, listening to sports radio or BBC news or old-time radio programs. The power button on my car stereo was broken, so that whenever you put the key in, the stereo came on; I didn't fix it...I didn't think it was a problem!
Because in these times, silence is not valued... not in our public culture, or, honestly, not in our church culture.
And there is a cost to not having it. Blogger Andrew Sullivan has written a powerful post about the price he paid for forsaking silence.
Sullivan cites Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor, who has studied the decline of religion in western culture, and Taylor argues that we didn’t go from faith to secularism in one fell swoop. Instead, certain ideas and practices made other ideas and practices not so much false, as just...less relevant. The modern world slowly weakened spirituality, in favor of commerce; it downplayed silence and merely "being," in favor of noise and constantly "doing". As Taylor sees it, the reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow "disproved the unprovable," but because the endless white noise of our culture has drowned out the stillness in which faith is born...the quiet in which faith lives.
See, a life of faith requires a healthy dose of stillness, of solitude, of silence.
But where to start, to build more silence into our lives? Here's a surprising place to look: The Harvard Business Review has 4 "practical ideas" for cultivating periods of sustained silence, in "The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time." Take a few minutes and check it out.
In Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, Henri Nouwen wrote,
Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, "Prove that you are a good person." Another voice says, "You'd better be ashamed of yourself." There also is a voice that says, "Nobody really cares about you," and one that says, "Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful." But underneath all these often-very-noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, "You are my Beloved, my favor rests on you." That's the voice we need most of all to hear.
But we need to have quiet to hear it.
And if you have any "quiet" strategies you want to share, leave them in the comments below!