What Happens in Silence and How to Navigate it
Maybe you are like me and stillness isn’t second nature. Maybe it seems actually like swimming upstream with 30-pound weights in your arms! Anyone feel me?! Because we know what happens if we are still… the internal noise starts rising and seeks to bombard us with ‘shoulds’ and ‘protests’ to what we are doing. Maybe when you are silent you have negative thoughts like, “you have plenty of other things more meaningful to be doing.” Internal noise can disrupt the simplest desire to present yourself to God. If that happens, simply acknowledge the thoughts and return to your intention of wanting to hear from God. Being kind to the thoughts that come up usually disarms them. It is hard to be silent and also move at the same time, so keep stillness and silence hand in hand in the beginning of practicing.
Silence keeps us connected to reality. The reality of God. Prayer is a two-way conversation and when we are silent we are passing the torch to God and giving him space to speak. Have you ever been in a conversation and while the other person is talking you are formulating a response to them or having thoughts of your own. We don’t really hear the other when our minds are full of our own agenda, emotions, and thoughts. Becoming still creates an internal space. It is like clearing off the table to invite guests over for dinner. If there is no place to stand or sit in your house, how can you host guests? Stillness and silence create a space inside to hear from God, it gives him room to participate in the two-way conversation that is prayer. In other words, silence and stillness are intentional practices to empty ourselves and make room for God to fill us with who He is. When we fail to make room in our hearts, we miss experiencing God’s invitations, His tender voice, His powerful voice, but most of all we miss His presence.
When we are silent we are acknowledging that God is Divine and we are not. He is worthy of our attention and we are actively trusting that God might have something for us in stillness…it implies that being with God is simply enough. God is enough.
So, you want to try to cultivate stillness and silence but the thought of being still for 30 minutes sounds excruciating. I understand. Start with what you can do and try it a few times before taking it off the table for good. Enter stillness to the degree in which you are able to, even for 1 minute or 5 minutes, that’s great! That is 5 minutes more then you did the week before! It is what I call progress.
I leave you with these words of encouragement from someone who has experienced rich silence with God. Mother Teresa puts it this way, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Stillness is not a magic formula to hear from God. However, through scripture and the wisdom and experience of spiritual mothers and fathers, God responds to sincere hearts. I would rather open to an experience of God, even if uncomfortable, if it means I might hear from the Lord. Out of silence and silliness comes abundant life.
Questions to Reflect:
- How might God want to use stillness and silence in my life right now?
- What keeps me from taking time to be still and/or silent?
- What is the nosiest thing in my current situation?
- What is one thing I could do today to practice stillness and silence to listen to God? (keep it simple and easy)
Prayer to Enter Stillness:
Lord replace my inner restless heart with a posture of stillness. Help me to learn how to slow down my thoughts, honor my feelings, and relax into my body. My life is yours and I want to give you this moment to say what you want, be with me how you want, and love me how you want. I wait in stillness knowing you are present to me whether I feel you near or not. I trust that your word is true. I look forward to hearing you more as I am practicing becoming still. In your name, Amen.