16th century mystic John of the Cross once wrote: “Silence is God’s first language.” Now, I’m a firm believer that God comes to us every day in any number of ways, through the bubbling laughter of our children, the joyous harmony of a choir, the hustle and bustle of a busy day, even the anguished cries of a broken heart.
But there’s something special about silence.
Silence is our gift to God. A “sacred pause.” A time to stop what we’re doing and listen. To soak in God’s presence and allow ourselves to be filled up. In the words of Mother Theresa: “Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.”
I facilitate a Women’s Faith Group at my church and each time we meet, we take 15 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection. It’s our “alone time” with Jesus. (For many of us busy women, it’s the only alone time we get!) To set the mood and help us focus on our prayer, I’ve gotten in the habit of playing soft instrumental music. One time, I forgot my iPod and so our quiet reflection time was held in complete silence. I was amazed at the difference! The silence was so rich. My spirit felt alive to the moment and I allowed myself to be still and reach a deeper connection with God.
How often do you experience silence or stillness? It may not come naturally to us at first. Silencing our outer world is the first challenge. Turning off the TV. Sneaking away from the demands of our families, even if just for a few moments. Putting away our phones. Ah… the biggest challenge yet! (Turn it off if you have to. Every time your text alert beeps or vibrates, it’s going to pull you back out of your silence. Why tempt yourself in that way!)
The second and much more difficult challenge is to silence your inner world. Quieting the mind is not easy! Distractions tend to creep in. The pressures of the day cling with stubbornness. You can’t stop thinking about that difficult conversation you had at work today. You can’t stop worrying about the report that’s due tomorrow. You wonder how your children are doing, or your aging parent.
My suggestions for achieving interior silence:
STEP ONE: Breathe in and out. Sounds kind of obvious but it will go a long way to helping you achieve stillness. Read more about it here.
STEP TWO: Begin with a prayer. “Dear God, I desire to sit in silence with You. But I’m bringing a lot of noise along with me. Please help me set my thoughts aside. I’m giving them over to You so I can listen for Your voice in the silence.” If it helps, actually imagine yourself picking up each distracting thought and placing it into God’s hands.
After that, it’s ok to let your mind wander. Focus on a passage from Scripture, a poem, or a particular question. Or just open yourself up to God’s inspiration and invitation. Use your thoughts, imagination, and emotion to really BE with God, and follow where He is leading you. Don’t stop and analyze each thought or feeling. Just keep meandering through this time with God. This is often where the best insights come from.
STEP THREE: If you have time, use a journal to record the thoughts that came to you during your time of silence. If you make a habit of this, you can look back over your insights and search for patterns. That’s when you know God is really trying to tell you something.
Sometime before this day ends, take three minutes to sit in complete silence. Sit on your bed or your favorite comfy chair… even in your car. Go outside and walk up and down your driveway if that’s the only place you can find quiet. Don’t try to accomplish anything during those three minutes. Just be with God and see what happens.