Friday, January 11, 2008

The Way of the Heart Part 2

Silence, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
It's been a while since I posted an entry on one of the books I've been reading lately. (Actually there are quite a few different books I have read, or been chewing through lately, so they may become a frequent topic for this blog.) Dutch author Henri Nouwen's book, The Way of the Heart is a book I've been reading with a group of friends in the faith in preparation for a wilderness retreat.

The book is primarily an exploration of three spiritual disciplines--solitude, silence and prayer. Before Christmas, I blogged about solitude and ironically I have had little opportunity in recent weeks to practice solitude.

As I continued reading through the section on silence, I was impacted by the following quote.

"Wherever we go we are surrounded by words: words softly whispered, loudly proclaimed, or angrily screamed; words spoken, recited or sung; words on records [or cds, or mp3s], in books, on walls , or in the sky; words in many sounds, many colors, or many forms; words to be heard, read seen, or glanced at; words which flicker off and on, move slowly, dance, jump, or wiggle. Words, words, words! They form the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of our existence."

Of course as you are reading this, I realize that I am adding to your word count for the day. ;) But sometimes, I think we are simply bombarded with words all hours of the day, and we don't have any filters for them. Or we begin to filter and ignore most all of them. Perhaps that's why we need periods of silence and stillness.

Beyond all of the shock of words, what about noise in general? I know soooo many people who must have background noise happening around them all of the time. Whether it's an ipod, or a television set, it seems like we are always looking for noise and running from silence.

Consider this quote Nouwen offers as well Keep in mind this book was written in 1981. This is before most people had more than 13 channels on their TV, personal computers weren't even known of, and the walkman, hadn't come into existence. And yet people craved noise. It's nothing new--only the methods have changed.

"One of our main problems is that in this chatty society, silence has become a fearful thing. For most people, silence creates itchiness and nervousness. Many experience silence not as full and rich, but as empty and hollow. For them silence is like a gaping abyss which can swallow them up. As soon as the minister says during a worship service, "Let us be silent for a few moments," people tend to become restless and pre-occupied with only one thought: "When will this be over?" Imposed silence often creates hostility and resentment."

I know in my own experience, I've felt this anxiety. Even when leading others through an exercise in silence, I feel the tension that the silence brings about. How I long for it to be over. How I long for noise to return. I think part of the reason we fear silence is that there is no creaturely comfort there. All that is left is God, and the question in our mind about whether or not we can be satisfied with Him. Often to our detriment we find ourselves running to anything and everything else. Our minds race with to do lists. Silence makes us feel unproductive. We feel like nothing is happening, but in reality, there is probably more happening in our hearts, minds, and lives during silence than during any other time.

I encourage you to take some time to turn off all of the noise. Don't go running around accomplishing tasks. Amid the silence, maybe, just maybe God will be able to speak to you freshly, and you will hear Him because you are undistracted by all of the other words and sounds that fill our lives.

1 comment:

The Lumberjack said...

Billy~ I enjoyed reading your reflections on 2007. Something we all should do more of: stopping to recall what God brings us to & through. And to take time out of our crazy busy lives and be still... 'as God whispers and the world is loud.'