Reflection ‘Adventures in Silence’
The thought of going on a silent retreat has always freaked me out. Why is that? I wonder how I would go without talking or expressing what is going on in my head for a few days?
How comfortable are you with silence? For a moment? For a few minutes? An hour? A day? Or longer? How do we get comfortable with silence? Can we ever really be comfortable with silence? Sometimes when you run out of words or when you become conscious that you are not thinking for a moment there is a silence. What if we learnt to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of silence and of being in the presence of God without all our supports and props and distractions?
I notice in church services that times of silence do not last long. People get uncomfortable. In the Uniting church we often speak about the importance of the Biblical witnesses through which God speaks God’s word. Recently, I read that the word ‘selah’, which appears at the end of a verse in some of the Psalms, could mean ‘silence’. We tend to read the word selah and then go on but perhaps it means stop, be quiet for a moment and reflect on what you have just heard, let the words tingle in your ears, flow through your mind and rest in your heart. Perhaps God speaks not just through words but also through silence. What if the main way God speaks to us is through silence?
A few weeks ago, I was slowly reading through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. When I came to Ephesians 4:13 I stopped at the two words – ‘to maturity’ as if selah had been placed there. What does ‘to maturity’ mean? Earlier in the passage Paul prays that his readers will lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called (verse 1) and in verses 15,16 Paul writes, But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love. Paul also mentions in verse 14 that we must no longer be children. Growing into adulthood is a process that we cannot stop; our bodies will mature but what about our faith? What about living life to the full?
Each of us is responsible for our own faith, for our own spiritual maturity. Bible stories that we have heard as children need to be reflected upon as adults, if we are to seek to have ‘the mind of Christ,’ or to know the ‘heart of God’. Jesus spent a lot of time on his own, away from people. What was he doing? Was he complaining to God how bad the world is and what a hard time he was having and how people just did not get him? Was Jesus actively seeking silence and through that to hear the voice of God? Was silence a companion on the way, a friend whom he would go into the wilderness to meet? What if silence is a friend beckoning us to spend time with them? Have your ever thought of silence as a friend?
Why do we need silence? Eckhart Tolle writes about how the Ego, speaking constantly in our mind, takes over and obscures the simple but profound joy of connectedness with Being, the Source, God.
If we are constantly listening to the voice of the ego, the voice of God may not be able to get through to us. So, like Jesus we may need to make friends with silence. We may need to learn how to listen to God and become comfortable with silence. We may need to learn how to ignore the ego and welcome silence. We may need to adventure out into silence and adventure within to silence confident that in the darkness and in the stillness and in the aloneness we will encounter God.
Photo Connemara, Republic of Ireland
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation