"Place yourself in a state of silence"
August 2015 Reflection
“Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps then we will come to understand it.”
-St. Augustine of Hippo
“Place yourself in a state of silence. Do nothing, but only listen to the voice of God.”
–St. Gaspar del Bufalo
Early this past spring a strong thunderstorm rumbled through my neighborhood. It blew through at about 2 am leaving tree limbs and power lines down throughout the Kansas City area. This tempest was loud! There was frequent lightning, thunder, heavy rain, and howling winds. The power went out in the midst of the squall.
There was an eerie calm in the house when I woke up later in the morning. My home’s normal sounds had been silenced because of the power outage. The hum of the refrigerator was absent, the air conditioner was not pushing air through the house, and the desktop computer was not giving off its normal whir. The stillness was unnerving!
The noise in our lives can be so persistent we are flummoxed when the world goes quiet. I’m sure this is why I was bothered by the stillness during the power outage.
I recently stumbled across a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo saying we should “leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence.” It sounds great to have some time for meitation and quietude. However, I usually fill this time with finding something to fiddle around with in my garden, some sort of idle chatter, and increasingly with one of my electronic devices. If I had access to cable TV I’d spend most of my summer evenings watching baseball. There are times when I could have quiet, but instead choose to listen to music or a podcast, or spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook or Twitter.
None of these things are inherently bad. Seemingly pointless banter can lead to hearing God’s presence in another person. We can see a glimpse of God’s creativity through the imagination of others in music, art, film, and literature. Social media can help us connect with friends and hear, and be challenged by, perspectives not our own. Even baseball can be a worthy escape from the challenges of the day!
The question then becomes are we using these things to avoid God’s call in our life. Giving ourselves time for stillness can help us more appreciate God’s presence in the joys, challenges, and sufferings in our lives. I don’t believe our inability to be still is a modern phenomena. The Psalmist gives the instruction to be still at least 700 years before Christ. Jesus is described as going off on his own to pray some 2000 years ago. St. Augustine writes about it in the 4th or 5th Century and St. Gaspar tells us to quiet down and listen intently just 200 years ago.
Our challenge is to be still. It is difficult to carve out the time and providing space for God to speak intimately to us can be intimidating. Not having the comfort of noise around us can feel odd in a world with so much of it. So be bold (or let the power go off) in turning everything off for at least a few moments and being open to hearing God’s voice.
Questions for Reflection
- What are some of the ways you avoid silence and reflection?
- What are some of the ways you “leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence?”
- What has surprised you about your time in silence and reflection?
- What was the fruit of your time spent in silence and reflection?