Foreign words to our society. Whether it is the television, music, phones, games, or just a tapping on the desk while one tries to “think,” noise bombards us. So when you are told to keep your talking to a minimum because of oral surgery and you find yourself in an empty house for a week because your children are at camp, silence takes on a whole new meaning.
Silence is Golden
According to http://www.phrases.org, the saying silence is golden, first came into English by the poet Thomas Carlyle when he translated it from German into his parody Sartor Resartus in 1831. In the story one of his characters speaks of the value of silence in this way:
“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting. Nay, in thy own mean perplexities, do thou thyself but hold thy tongue for one day: on the morrow, how much clearer are thy purposes and duties; what wreck and rubbish have those mute workmen within thee swept away, when intrusive noises were shut out! Speech is too often not, as the Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought; but of quite stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silver, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity.”
Did you hear the challenge? When your own perplexities of the day begin to overwhelm you, take the time to hold your tongue. It is then that your purpose and duties become clearer. Isn’t this the same wisdom our heavenly Father gives to us, even begs us to implement in our own lives?
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Christian George, in his book Sacred Travels, expresses the conflict between our human nature and the nature God desires for us to foster in our personal lives. After spending a 24-hour period without verbal communication, he uses an illustration with amplifiers and antennas.
“…I realized that there are two types of people in this world: amplifiers and antennas. As a recovering amplifier, I can say from experience that I enjoy producing lots of noise. Put me in a crowd of people and let me go. This is why silence comes hard for me.
But silence helps us to be more like antennas, ready to receive any signal the Savior needs to send us. My urge to be an amplifier is strong, and when I woke up the next morning, I felt it more than ever. But after a day and night of wordless meditation and inward contemplation, I came to understand why God insisted that we “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
If we never have times set aside to sit and be still before our God, we will never fully receive all that the Father has for us. We must be conscious of any interference or static that might be keeping us from receiving a full signal from God. Just like you have to be near a cell phone tower to receive the best signal, we too must draw near to Him and remove any barriers (often times our own speech) out of the way so that we can listen.
Some of my children do not like to study at the library because it is too quiet. They would rather be able to be distracted from their work than left alone with their thoughts and studies. Carlyle referenced in his parody, speech stifles our thought. If quietness makes room for thought, then it is not surprising how much speech is thrown at us to prevent us from truly thinking through the issues of our day. The media would rather do our thinking for us than to allow us the time to meditate on God’s word and gain His insight and wisdom. Thus, we can see the battle for what it really is. If Satan can keep our minds full of noise, then we will have no time to sit still with God and hear the voice of our loving Father. It is a battle and we must fight for those still, quiet moments. George maintains that the battle for those still moments is critical because it prepares us for the war.
“Silent moments with the Savior season us for spiritual combat. Our journey through life is so splashy with activity that we often struggle just to keep our heads above the waves. Henri Nouwen submits, ‘We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord.’ No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can always take a moment to be with our Maker–morning moments, shower moments, stoplight moments, lunchtime moments, midnight moments.”
A dear friend over the past few years has challenged me to remember siren prayers. Prayers that whenever you hear a siren, you lift up that situation and the people involved in prayer. This is one way to practice silent moments. Another way is to remember the charge in Deuteronomy.
“Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-20
Today, I challenge you to take some time be silent. Turn off all the noise around you and meditate on God through His Word and through His still small voice.