Have you ever had something that seems to pop up everywhere you turn? A topic that just keeps appearing? Like an echo, it repeats, until you pay attention, listening to it resonance within your heart. Margret Feinberg calls these “Sacred Echoes”.
Recently, “silence” has been a sacred echo in my life. “Silence” has been percolating everywhere, vying for my attention. Articles on silence appeared on the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook. It emerged in my daily Scripture and devotional readings. Friends and family just happen to raise it in conversations.
Silence, solitude, and stillness were obviously calling to me; pulling me out of business, chaos and noise. Senses are overloaded as we are bombarded with images and stimulus. Life’s constant commotion – activities, talking, distractions, podcasts, traffic, music, texts, and media – can preclude silence and stillness. And on top of all this external noise, are minds are jam-packed with the internal static of our self-talk and internal dialogue.
Rather than managing our busy lives, our tendency is to allow it to control us. We seldom carve out time in our busy schedules to be alone, to sit still, and embrace silence. “In this modern age, with all the gadgets we have, people seem to fill up every moment with some external activity.” (ABC Science).
We have grown accustomed to noisy, fast paced, plugged-in lives. So much so, that when we become unplugged and are confronted with silence, it can be unfamiliar and unnerving. In fact, “In a recent study, participants experienced anxiety when separated from their cell phones. Without their phones, participants’ heart rate and blood pressure increased and their cognition decreased”. (Cellphone Separation Anxiety is Real, Zoe Schlanger).
Typically, when we are faced with silence, and the subsequent disquiet or anxiety, we rush to fill it with activity and distractions. Anything to escape silence. Will Dunham in a ABC Science article writes, “A US study published in the journal Science shows that most volunteers who were asked to spend no more than 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking found the task onerous. In fact, in one of the experiments some of the volunteers, particularly the males, preferred to administer mild electrical shocks to themselves rather than sit and do nothing.”
Imagine that. People would rather shock themselves than have to face silence and be alone with their thoughts. Why is it that we struggle with silence?
A recent article by Nathan Hale, discussed “Four Reasons We Are Afraid of Silence” (ChurchLeaders, Lead Better Every Day). He suggests that we are afraid of silence because in it we are confronted with our own thoughts and a sense of holiness. In the quiet, we come face to face with our lives, our personal creativity, and ourselves. And most importantly, in silence we “might actually hear the voice of God”, and then be confronted about the ways we could grow. We might be challenged to become more obedient, more loving, to repair broken relationships, to ask for forgiveness or to forgive, give up the idols we worship, or “leave treasured sins and long-held preferences behind”.
Scripture encourages time for silence. Jesus regularly escaped the crowds and His disciples, so He could seek moments of quiet reflection and prayer away from others (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35). We are also inspired through Scripture to embrace silence in verses such as “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by your self. Enter the silence.” (Lamentations 3:28) or “Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10). For it is when we lean into silence and surrender to stillness, we are most able to deeply connect with God and ourselves.
- We find moments to dream and to reflect. Time to sift through what is going on in our lives; time to discover and observe things that we may have been missing because we are distracted. We begin to notice praise items and things of gratitude. We learn. We recharge and fill our emotional and spiritual tanks. And the busier we get, slowing down and settling into silence is even more critical. (Doing Nothing is Time Well Spent, Frank Sonnebery)
- We are confronted with truths. Truths that may be hard to face at first, but once faced, allow us to move forward in our sanctification. “It has been well said: “No man can expect to make progress in holiness who is not often and long alone with God”. (Prayerlessness, by Andrew Murray)
- We become transformed. We begin to look vertically to God, rather than horizontally to the world. We begin to sense God deeper ways. We discover He is our refuge.
I am answering the call of silence and solitude. As I do, I am discovering the richness and fruitfulness of being still. Is this something that resonates with you? Or is there another echo in your life that you need to start paying attention to?