We live in a world of busyness and noise. Smart phones train us to respond to prompts. Email and texts blur the line between our work and personal life. The 24 hour news cycle means we are continually processing data. Oftentimes we feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious.
In the midst of the busyness and noise where do we turn for perspective and refreshment? Is there an antidote from this seemingly relentless pace?
The Bible tells the story of a man called Elijah. Elijah was a Hebrew prophet who lived approx. 3000 years ago. Elijah felt abandoned by his people and abandoned by God. Elijah: “I alone am left and my enemies are seeking my life, to take it away.”
Into the story God speaks but not in the way Elijah expects:
God said: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, the sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.
Such is the great paradox of this story. It is not in the noise and fury of wind, earthquake or fire that God speaks. Rather, in ‘the sound of sheer silence’. The paradox of being able to hear what is truly important in the midst of quiet.
Quiet…silence…creates emotional and spiritual space within which we can listen for and get in touch with what matters. The countercultural call remains the same. To make space for quiet. Space to simply be.
The truth is that many of us fear silence. We fear the loss of control. We prefer being busy. Many of us are propelled by an old joke: ‘Don’t just stand there, do something!’
We do something, anything, to give us a sense of purpose. Even if the ‘something’ isn’t the right thing or the healthiest thing to do. Busyness and noise as an end unto itself.
Elijah knew that what truly matters comes not in the earthquake, wind or fire. Truth and value comes from silence. Imagine.
In 2002 I participated in a ten-day silent kayak trip in the Tongass Wilderness, in Southeast Alaska. We were introduced each day to meditation practices. Meditation designed to help us quiet the busyness in our mind and simply be. Open to where we were and what was going on within me and around me.
Truth be told, for the first few days I struggled. The silence was uncomfortable. I had so many things to say. Chaotic thoughts or feelings I wanted to flee from. But by day three I felt myself shift…where the silence became a gift. A gift that invited me to become more aware and open… to rest and be restored ‘in the sheer silence’.
Over the next few blogs I’d like to explore with you ways of entering into the sheer silence. I invite you on a counter-cultural journey of becoming quiet. We may well be surprised by where the journey takes us.