This morning I woke up before my alarm went off ...
It is my first full day of working from home, and I planned to get up before the rest of my family so I could have a couple of good hours of silence to write, read and pray.
While I normally try to rise before they wake for a few minutes of prayer time, this is different. This time I will be hoping they sleep in just a little longer so I can do my work before the house becomes loud and chaotic (do you know how LOUD two 3-year-olds are?!)
I love getting up early and I think it is partly because I cherish the silence. There are a few background noises: birds chirping, roosters crowing, the coffee pot percolating.
Even amidst those sounds, though, there is a stillness before most of the world wakes.
Do you enjoy silence?
Every year I go on retreat with eleven colleagues and we spend about 24 hours of it in silence. When I tell someone that for the first time, I am often met with a gasp, “A full day of silence?! I could never do that!!”
I probably would have said the same thing before Bethany Fellows taught me how to be quiet. I learned among that group of young pastors and experienced mentors that silence is more than lack of noise – it is an opportunity to be present with God.
During Holy Week, we usually hear the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He pleads with his friends, “Please stay awake, keep watch. Don’t go to sleep…”
I’ve learned on my retreats that to be silent, still and present with God, sometimes we need to know our friends are with us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our day of silence lately. It kind of feels like my body has switched gears into that mode. Because being quiet and still is not natural for me. I like people, conversation, interaction.
But in this global pandemic there is only so much Zoom, FaceTime and Netflix that will sustain us. Eventually, we will have to be still.
On my last retreat we met with a liturgy professor, Dr. Don Saliers of Chandler Divinity School. He said, “It only takes about thirty seconds of silence for the demons to come out.”
And he’s right. I think that is something we are having the hardest time with. We can’t fill our lives with entertainment. So the demons are emerging.
But here’s the thing… Sometimes we need to meet our demons face to face, so we can call them by name and put them back in their place. In silence we have to face our demons, but we also have the opportunity to encounter our God for whom demons are no match.
I think silence is a discipline that is learned through practice. So here are a few ideas that I’ve witnessed practicing silence with my colleagues and friends:
- Cook real food and savor it. My friend Diane makes Indian food every year on our day of silence. (Side note: my other friend Kelley is her sous chef and spends hours chopping vegetables. Having a small task can settle the mind.)
- Journal. Use a pen and paper or your laptop. Write a letter to God. You may face your demons but you don’t face them alone.
- In the words of Parks & Recreation, “Treat yo’self.” We usually have a massage therapist come on our day of silence but you don’t need that. Take a bubble bath. Break out some lavender essential oil.
- Have fun. Usually by the end of the day I’m ready to read something fun. Read a novel or listen to a funny podcast. I usually try to avoid television because that seems to speed up my brain rather than slow it.
On this Holiest of weeks, I pray that you might receive the gift of silence. While it may not seem like a gift at first, if you will go through and not around, it may become your closest friend.