Day 3: Silence

November 30, 2021

Morton Grove Forest Preserves, Nov. 10, 2021, photo credit Elizabeth Jones

I used to shy away from silence, when I was young. I always had to be surrounded by people or by sound. And usually, either music or voices. White noise was okay, but I still felt alone. And, I deeply felt the aloneness. Gradually, I had to grow accustomed to silence. But, that was decades ago. Looking backward, I see myself then as immature. Only half-birthed, and such a young one.

When I was introduced to the book Living in the Presence by Tilden Edwards just a few months after starting seminary, I felt blown away. My professor in the course on Introduction to Prayer actually studied at the Shalem Institute with Edwards. The width, depth and breadth of Edwards’ knowledge about spiritual growth and formation blew me away, too.

Edwards said that we all “have a tendency to become very noisy inside to compensate for the silence outside.” His comfort level with silence fascinated me, and was something I wanted in my life. Sure, I had grown a bit since the constant need (desire for?) sound in my teens, and it continued through my 20’s and 30’s. Yet, at 40, I had some idea of how desperately far I still needed to go.

Edwards is just one of so many who references “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) as part of the contemplative tradition. He said “Being still before God is the enduring stance of prayer, that which lasts when all the words and other sounds inside are exhausted.” [1]

Yes, I can sit in silence before God now. Sometimes I even crave that Godly silence, the silence so filled with the presence of the Almighty – containing the totality of the spectrum of sound, which includes silence. But, sometimes my comfort level ebbs and flows. Sometimes I do still crave some kind of music or voices, or water and rain sounds. And, that is okay, too. As long as I am communicating with God. That is what God truly wants, after all.

Would you join me in this sounding of prayer?

Dear God, thank You for sound. Thank You for the multiplicity of varieties of sound, from the whisper of the breeze to the crash of the ocean waves. Thank You for the beauty of voices singing and instruments playing. Thank You for silence, too, that deep, smooth pool of stillness, spreading across the psalmist’s awareness. Help us to know – truly know – that You are God. Amen.


[1] Edwards, Tilden, Living in the Presence (Harper Collins: San Francisco, 1995), 35.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )