The Practice of Silence
It’s July 11th 2019, and we are staying at a house in Haena, near “the end of the road” in Kauai. I decide to put silence into practice that morning instead of just reading about it in my book.
I walk down to the ocean and take off my slippers. That’s what the locals in Kauai call flip flops. As I say the word to myself, I smile. My feet sink into the sticky sand and I let the waves wash over my feet.
After finding a dry spot for my towel, I settle into a seated pose and sit tall. My legs are crisscross applesauce and my hands are resting face up on my thighs. I quiet my mind by listening to the rhythmic sound of waves crashing.
My goal is solely to embrace the silence and listen to God. I grab ahold of a couple words to help center my mind and keep it from wandering. I say, “God, I’m open. I’m here.” As I sit in silence, I feel the truth of wanting to know God more wash over me.
I remember speaking these very words out-loud to Andrew over dinner the night before, when he asked me what my goal was for sabbatical. After a long pause, I answered, “I want to know God more. That’s my goal. To know Him in a more intimate way.”
A podcast episode I listened to by Peter Scazzero comes to mind, when he talks about a loving union with God and how it’s knowing God in a more intimate way.
The waves crash, and I sit and I soak in the silence. God softens my soul with each breath and minute that passes. “God, I’m open. I’m here.”
I walk back up to the house and find a spot on the porch to have my quiet time. I open my old copy from my college days of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I turn to July 11th and my heart stills as I read the verse,
That I may know Him.Philippians 3:10
I’m in awe. Tears spill out of me. God knows me so intimately. God knows my heart’s desire even before I know how to voice it for myself. He went before me.
He was with me the night before when I was wrestling with my purpose for sabbatical, He was with me in the silence by the shoreline, and He is with me now in this very moment. God is real. Jesus is alive. God is with me.
It’s December 10th 2019. I set my timer for 5 minutes and feel my body tense up. I’m questioning if I’ll be able to fully give myself over to silence today.
It’s only 5 minutes, but to be still and silent for five minutes can feel like starting a new exercise class; it feels awkward and you wonder if you’re doing it right.
I pick out a single word from my time in Scripture that morning, Immanuel, which means God with us. This single word will be the barre on the perimeter of the room I can grab ahold of when my mind starts to teeter, wobble, and wander.
Prayer is immediately where my mind wants to go, but that’s not the purpose for these 5 minutes, so I promise myself I can pray after the 5 minutes of silence are up.
My body starts out tense and in a protective posture. My eyes are closed and I begin to breathe. As I pay attention to my breath, my body opens up and I feel my soul slowly shifting into a posture of receiving.
I feel a little vulnerable, so I grab ahold of my word to steady myself. Immanuel, God with us. As I get more comfortable in this posture of receiving and I’m able to personalize these intimate words, I let them sink in more deeply and I internalize the truth, God is with me.
I soften and I know I’m loved. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
Maybe you can relate. It’s easier to believe God is with us than to absorb the truth that God is with me.
We feel vulnerable when it gets personal and we start to teeter and wobble. Or worse, we disconnect from ourselves and our God by grabbing hold of doing instead of being. But here’s the truth of the gospel.
God is with you in the diagnosis.
God is with you in the recent loss of your loved one.
God is with you in your difficult pregnancy.
God is with you as you move.
God is with you as you graduate.
God is with you on the mission field while you’re far away from home.
God is with you as you let go of something in the past that still hurts.
God is with you as you start something new.
God is with you.
God loves you.
In Ruth Haley Barton’s book Silence and Solitude she says this,
The good news is that finally, when we are exhausted from squirming, we may open up to the possibility of letting go of our own efforts and receiving something from God. Silence is the practice that allows us to do this.Ruth Haley Barton
The practice of silence breaks down the barriers we put up of both productivity and numbing out. Silence allows us to be fully present with ourselves and our God.
There’s no running and no hiding. We feel stripped bare before God, and we begin to notice all the things we’re not consciously aware of. Our breath is our tell.
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.Job 33:4
God loves us so much more than we can comprehend. When we practice silence, we open ourselves up to a knowing that can only come from him.
Taking a few moments to be with God rather than do for God is countercultural in every single way. Maybe this can be our quiet rebellion against all the noise this Christmas.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14
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