Space for Silence

“I need peace and silence to give free play to this quickening flame of prayer.”

– The Way of the Pilgrim

Do you avoid or resist silence? Do you fill silence with noise and activities?

There have been times in my life when I have struggled with silence. It can make me feel uncomfortable and unproductive. But over the past months, as the world turned upside-down, and fear and uncertainty threatened to steal away peace. When “normal life” became virtually different, and cancellations, social distancing, and masks became the new norms. When divisions and disagreements, plots, and politics further isolated and alienated people. When mental fatigue and frustration infiltrated an already fragile world, I needed and craved silence more than ever. 

During these months, I have taken some time to create space and have been working to bring more silence into my life. In one sense, this has been one of the busiest seasons of my life and in ministry. And yet in another way, this season is becoming one of the most peaceful and quiet seasons I have yet to experience in a heart and spiritual sense. 

Learning how to quiet down has been work. The Holy Spirit has helped through the many trials and errors, failures, and restarts. Creating silence has come with imperfect efforts, growing through uncomfortable challenges, avoiding distractions, practicing self-discipline, relying on faith, and learning to relinquish control. Yet, each attempt at silence has been fruitful and faithful to lead me to prayer- a life-line of peace, strength, and truth, which guards and strengthen my heart and mind. 

Silence can make us aware of the things we would rather avoid or not feel. It requires us to listen more than speak. It helps us evaluate our motives (which can often be eye-opening and unpleasant) and take inventory of our activities to reevaluate what is important. 

Silence also highlights the value of time that is too precious to waste on the world’s worries and woes. It offers a proactive place of positioning and purpose- a place of freedom and rest. Silence is a sacred space to take refuge in uncertainty, and most definitely worth the time and effort of creating it in our lives. 

Exercises to Create Silence in Your Life: 

(from Adele Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

1.) If silence is new for you, begin with ten minutes. Setting a timer can help a novice who watches the clock. The timer lets you forget the time and settle into the quiet. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God and become quiet. -As you become quiet, what do you hear- voices, traffic, your breath, wind, your heart, distracting thoughts? Let the nose go. Continue to let the quiet deepen. Be with God. -After ten minutes, reflect on what it was like for you to simply be still enough to hear the background. – Try several times a day. What happens to you? The benefits of being silent are often seen in the fruit it bears than the experience of silence. 

2.) While doing a task, turn off any background noise and continue the task by offering it to God. Be in the present, doing what you are doing with a listening heart. -What is it like for you? -What distracts you? 

(Shanna’s note: If you are a mom with young kids, this might be difficult to do. I would suggest trying this during nap time, or including your children in a set quiet time for your whole family. We have also tried silent lunches- where there is no talking while we ate. I was surprised by how much better the food tasted. PB& J was never more delicious!) 

3.) If you struggle with silent time, bring a timer with you to prayer. Sit in a quiet and comfortable place where you can attend to the Lord. Take some deep breaths, relaxing your body, and quieting your mind. -Put the timer on for one minute. Become still before the Lord. When a distracting thought comes to mind, count it, but drop it into the river of God’s peace. Let it float down the river. Count each thought that comes up and let it float down the river. After one minute, how many thoughts have gone through your mind? – Set the timer for another minute. Repeat the same exercise. How many thoughts went through your mind this time? -What do you find out about quieting your soul? What was it like for you to do this? 

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