Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 2

By Michael Gallup

Be Still.

This is perhaps the loveliest yet most difficult of all God’s commands. In it, I hear my Father yearn for me to enjoy Him in the silence, to be a part of the mystery of Easter, to have a relationship with the maker of heaven and earth. Yet despite these benefits, I find myself like so many within my culture, afraid of the silence.

I’m not sure why exactly but I am; maybe my culture has conditioned me this way. We find ways to fill our lives with noise and crowds; we buy ipods so that in between things on our to-do list, we don’t have to suffer the condemnation of silence. We fill every gap in our lives with meaningless chatter: television, cell phones, facebook, texting, twitter, music, and the like. We constantly bombard our minds with noise. Our culture has lost the art of silence and consequently has lost the art of the presence of God. T.S. Elliot notes, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”

Maybe this conditioning is why I am afraid of the silence or maybe I am simply afraid that I might actually hear God. So instead of preparing an inner sanctuary, I fill my schedule with thing after event after meeting after thing.

I am always telling myself the lie, “I simply don’t have the time to be still.” Right now, I need to focus on these other commandments: don’t judge, don’t be proud, don’t lust, feed the hungry, be holy, be perfect. Yet the Merciful Spark will not let me go; in the background of all of this I hear a small still voice saying, “Be still…” and the voice fades into the darkness and my to-do list lengthens until it rivals Santa’s naughty or nice list in length. There is just too much to do. I don’t have enough time.

Yet right smack dab in the middle of my schedule that is engraved in stone, God with a THUNDEROUS WHISPER says-“be still.” And I am humbly reminded like Elijah that He is not in the fire, He is not in the raging wind, He is not in the earthquake, He is not in the tempest of finals week, He is not in the deadlines, He is not in the burdens of a world that looks on my body of work and demands, “More! Give me more!”

No, He is in the mundane, just underneath the surface, waiting for me cease striving and listen. Yes, He is in the deep silence of the soul crying out for our thirsty hearts to come to the water’s edge and drink.

Michael is a busy person surrounded by grace. He among other things plays the Mandolin poorly. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.



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6 responses to “Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 2

  1. Thanks Michael! Great reminder… I do hear his cry to “come to His water and drink!” Bless you today!

  2. Georgie-ann

    very lovely,…I love this quote: T.S. Elliot notes, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”

    For one thing, without enough quietness (let alone actual silence!), “I can’t even hear myself think!” was something we used to say, when bombarded with gratuitous overly-charged sound waves. Sometimes, it could actually feel like “getting beaten up” by over-stimulated environmental abuse — “environments on steroids?” There is no doubt that the human nervous system suffers from excessive exposure to high energy sound blasts,…ask any resident of a large airport neighborhood, or near construction, or rude partiers with huge amplifying systems — “the bigger the better” for some, creating a literal “hell on earth” for others.

    The night used to be for resting. I remember peace descending on our neighborhoods “after dinner” — old folks came out for a stroll, greeting young folks at play in their yards while their “Mom was doing the dishes,” (by hand, btw — no noisy machines — & the familiar clinking of silverware, being rinsed under running water, was almost slightly musical in the background) — and a slowing down of everything with nightfall. Possibly included might be the delight of early summer fireflies & the “first star” appearing. It all inevitably led to the coziness of a soft, quiet bedroom — & aahhh, peace. It was “in the air.” You could taste it. It was nourishing to your soul. Probably even healing, but what did we know about things like that? To us it was “just normal.” The natural slowing down rhythm of the evening into night.

    That would have been, for me, “in the fifties.” Well, things have certainly heated up since then! “Nature abhors a vacuum,” we are told. We have found a way — (or as you say: so many ways!) — to re-program our evenings “to be more productive, more active:” night school, second jobs, sports and entertainment to alleviate boredom & stress, shopping, the inevitable “watch me” demands of tv, and on and on,…There never seem to be enough hours in the day “to git it all done!” And even if and when we do finally lie down to rest, our minds may remain “active”/activated, planning, rehashing, worrying, obsessing, caffeinated, going in circles, for hours longer. Did we even remember to pray?

    I have finally come to the point where the “mystery” of silence as a “spiritual thing” has opened up some of its treasures to me. I know, — wow! — but it’s true.

    Initially silence beckons. We sense that “there is something in there.” Something different. (A surprise package waiting to be opened?) Certainly different from the usual day to day merry-go-round we are riding on and can’t get off. We read things about it. We hear things about it. We even think about it. Silence. ??????

    So then, we “try” a little. A little silence. Maybe we’re not too impressed. Maybe we feel awkward. Maybe we’re doing it wrong? In this world of systematic everything, it’s hard to not feel capable, to not “be in control.” I can’t control the silence. I can’t make it obey my will. Wow. That IS scary, when you think about it!!! What do I think it will do? Bite me? Make fun of me? Reveal me to be the “fool” that deep down inside I secretly fear that I am? Who knows???? Maybe we’d better just not open this box,…

    (I’ll be back with more, in a bit,…)

  3. Michael: What kind of silence is bluegrass? Hope you had a fantastic time.

    Martin Luther believed that the Ten Commandments divided nicely in half: the first commands being how we relate to God and the others how we relate to one another. That’s true.

    But I believe the Sabbath command is the hinge. It is the silence we must have in order to know there is only one God, to speak his name in relationship and not vanity, to worship God in truth. But then Sabbath also connects us with others–not busyness–and the created world. It may well be the most practical command. And wouldn’t it be just like God to give us–in the Sabbath command–a way to obey all the rest?

  4. Georgie-ann

    I consider myself very fortunate/lucky/blessed to have “crossed paths” with some actual good people who were able to help lead/guide me in areas of prayer, early enough in life that I’ve had plenty of time to “go slow, and grow slow” with it, — (I don’t think there is any other option, really!) — read, study, search, ask questions, practice, find my own personal path and experience, etc. Mostly anything I would have to share on the matter, is simply a reflection of my own prayer journey and experience, and I’m sure there will be similarities and differences for everyone.

    From the beginning, in a time — (the ’60s) — when there were beginning to be “lots of ‘new age’ options” around, I wanted a Christian experience. Fortunately, there were many works known, “popular” and available: Bro. Lawrence, The “Jesus” Prayer, The Early Fathers of the Philokalia, and many more. For me “less is often more” with this kind of thing. A few good solid concepts that I can take to heart and find resonating within, will carry me a long way, and for a long time.

    I was also very drawn to Catholic art and architecture (the old stuff!), and enjoyed the visual setting of many a beautiful quiet church as an aid to inspiring and finding the prayer of personal stillness “before the Lord.” I was told that quietly meditating on The Lord’s Prayer, line by line, was an appropriate focus for one’s attention, and I did this quite often,…amazingly, after awhile, somewhere in the middle, one’s attention may begin to trail off from the particular prayer words and thoughts, transitioning more or less comfortably into a zone of stillness, quiet, peacefulness, maybe even sometimes resembling an edge of “sleepiness.” And, little by little, one begins to feel more and more comfortable here, even inclined to reseek it, to refind “this place” within. It is a “God place,” set apart from the daily grind, an oasis/spa for the tattered soul, that we can really begin to “hunger and thirst” for, to return often and “drink from the well.”

    I know many people who do regular Bible reading also in this way. I love to study the Bible, and also listen to music, but these are more “active pursuits” for me, compared to the restful benefits of finding “silence.” (Not that “silence” doesn’t have its own dynamics “going on!” It surely does, the more you are attuned!)

    Silence is not always purely silent either. As the outer streetworn (lifeworn), possibly agitated layers are starting to rest/release, we become aware of other usually unnoticed things. I was a big tea drinker “back in the day,” and suddenly I could now hear my ears “ringing” (from the caffeine). The more I wondered what was going on, focusing on it, the louder it seemed to become. Nobody knew what it was, and I was advised to not keep doing it for awhile. There is no point in forcing something stressful. Eventually, I found out somehow that this is an effect of drinking too much caffeine for some people, and reducing my intake did have a positive effect on reducing the ringing — one problem identified and solved.

    “Distractions” concern some people. Thoughts from the surface of our lives, even some that have been more or less “buried,” now given a chance to “pop in” on this quieted focus screen, may appear to vie for our attention. We were taught to let them pass on through, just like clouds in the sky — not to become worried about them or hold on to them. I have a friend who said she would often find herself “making a grocery shopping list” mentally, but eventually those ideas would settle themselves out and she would move on to her realm of quiet.

    I’m convinced that our current stress levels, adrenaline, and “perpetual performance mode,” are aligned in direct opposition to cultivating this kind of spiritual “rest.” (Any kind of rest, for that matter!) We used to have to expect to devote a certain amount of time just to intentionally slowing down “our jets,” before we could expect to be aware of anything in a stillness realm. I can see that now in two ways. I could always see that deliberately retreating from the outer swirl of activity was a good thing, but I’ll bet some of the time is also necessary for the body’s own adrenaline levels (“fight or flight”) to get the message that “we’re not fighting or flighting” right now and adjust. This is a deliberate way to teach the body to take a mini-rest or vacation from habitual stress! I’m sure it’s quite healthy!

    As Shrek says, “It’s layers, like an onion.” What do we find as we move away from the outer layers that accumulate so much junk that isn’t even of our own selves in this life? We might find some relief, or even conflicted emotions about some things. This is why it is very beneficial to bring along mentally our faith connection to God with us, such as meditating on The Lord’s Prayer. Because the “deeper” we go, we’ll even pass on through the personal emotions of our life experiences, to a realm where we “know” that it is just “us with God” or “God with us.” There is something very solid and life-giving, life-affirming, fundamental to this realm. We “know” and we are known here. It is a realm of Goodness, Faith, and Trust. The outer concerns become a little more pale by comparison. Perhaps they are being put “in their proper perspective” for the first time.

    It is a realm of Warmth, Light, and Love. We know we are breathing our Life from God. And, — another “miracle” — this Life that we find, begins to “bleed” from the inside out into those tired, drying up, outer layers, becoming not only a refreshing to ourselves, but to those around us as well.

    “Spring up, Oh Well, within my soul!
    Spring up, Oh Well, and make me whole,…”

    John 7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

    Proverbs 18:4
    “The words of a [discreet and wise] man’s mouth are like deep waters [plenteous and difficult to fathom], and the fountain of skillful and godly Wisdom is like a gushing stream [sparkling, fresh, pure, and life-giving].”

    Psalm 46:10
    “Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

    God Loves You!

  5. Evan Roth

    Right on! Great post and so true.

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