Silence does not get much respect these days. We fill every moment with something and then we crave more hours in a day so we can fill those up too. The quiet moments that so many of us long for (in the car or working out if there’s time) are often made more productive or enjoyable with podcasts, audio books or internet radio. But what about padding your day with a little silence instead of another app? Is it even possible in today’s world? God encourages us to seek it (Lamentations 3:26, Psalm 46:10, Job 29:21). But in a society of high expectations and really smart electronic devices, most of us honestly don’t know how to unplug and be silent. And as we approach a season of well-meaning but sometimes distracting gifts, gadgets and gizmos, it is very easy for all of us to get lost in the excitement and chaos.
Jesus modeled for us how to retreat. So if Jesus needed to retreat into silence, then surely you and I do as well? The reasons for why should we retreat seem obvious—to pray, to listen for God’s voice, to be refreshed and connect with him anew. But how do we do it and why don’t we do it regularly enough? Even though we recognize the importance of silence, many of us struggle with consistency. How can we face this fast paced world we live in, continue the demands of parenthood, career, friendships, volunteerism, etc. and still follow Jesus’ model to retreat with our Heavenly Father? What are your tricks for being consistent in your quiet time when the pillow is begging you to stay just a while longer?
One false assumption that we often jump to is that we can’t retreat to silence without dropping everything. We think that we must pack our bags and travel far away to a land without wi-fi in order to retreat. That would be nice on occasion! However, it is not very practical. So, how do we find silence without retreating to the desert or setting our alarm for the middle of the night?
Well, it does take effort. It may mean a change in habits and a little more planning or tasks that get put on the back burner. It is not usually going to find you. I think we’ve learned to comfort ourselves with the noise almost like some toddlers long for their pacifier. But, don’t be afraid of the silence. You are likely to receive a great refueling just by eliminating some noise, even if it is just a few minutes at a time.
Quite simply, we must make time of retreat a priority to find this silence. I genuinely think that most of us are simply not sure where to start. If silence really makes you uncomfortable (and it does for a lot of us extroverts), start small. Take five minutes in the morning or evening and simply breathe deep and listen. Invite God into your day by reading a Psalm or favorite scripture as you sit in the quiet and reflect or just sit and think through your day (not your ‘to do’ list). You may even be able to use the distractions of this world to settle into your silence before you take the plunge into total solitude. Visit your local coffee shop for a treat and set aside just 30 minutes to watch the people come and go. Notice their pace; take extra notice of those who seem to be enjoying their journey. Taste and smell your hot tea or coffee and take time to enjoy it as you reflect while avoiding the temptation of taking that phone call, text message or email. If you are new to practicing silence, use the crowd and the distractions to your advantage. Then, when you’re ready, take the next step and the next toward deeper and longer quiet times retreating for an hour or a portion of your day. You may just find that there is a giant breath of fresh air and a second wind once you “power off”. When my son was younger, I was lost when his nap times came to an end (my quiet time). But, I later learned of other moms who instilled a mandatory quiet time. I think this is a great way to model for our kids that we can take just a few minutes out to read a book, do a craft or just simply rest. Get creative and include your family so that you can enjoy your quiet time!
Believe it or not, you don’t need a desert. You don’t need an egg timer or meditation chimes (although I’ve used both and I would enjoy a trip back to Sedona). You don’t even have to clear your mind (thank goodness!). Silence is actually an opportunity to hear things you may have never heard before or see things you may have never seen before. It has the ability to heighten all your other senses. Try it this week. You may find that you actually like it and realize that Jesus was onto something big.
Thomas Merton noted, “Our being is silent, but our existence is noisy.” Claim some silence for yourself and don’t let your existence get in the way today.