Among the ironies of my life this one was rich. Here I was leading a church Lenten study the other day on silence. Me! I turn on the radio before I get out of bed and then turn it on in every room I enter (or so Nancy tells me) She also says she has made a career of following behind me to turn off the noise in all the rooms I have left.
As I was growing up I listened to radio in the morning, when I got home after school and into the evening. My mother played the piano after dinner. And then we got a TV.
I recall going on a two day silent retreat before my ordination. It was awful! I could not wait for it to be over. No one talked to me (of course) and I quickly tired of the suggested “spiritual” reading in my room. I spent most of the time out walking around the grounds listening to the nature sounds.
Yet here I am in my sixth decade advocating silence. I have discovered something – there is a difference between silence as an absence of sound and silence as a way of hearing different things. I used to spend silent time trying to eliminate my thoughts and to not hear nature sounds and other things in the environment around me.
Silence now for me is really shutting down the radio, TV, and iPod, in order to hear other things that are masked by the noise. If I eliminate the distractions I can better hear that still small voice that is obscured by the noise emanating from all those sources our culture tells us we cannot live without. The truth is that we can exist and function without taking time for silence but we cannot live fully without it. The psalmist was right admonishing us in God’s name to “be still and know that I am God.” We need to be present, attentive and not distracted and pulled in many directions if we wish to hear God within us gently calling us.
I am not sure I am ready yet for another 2 day silent retreat. But in a few years who knows….