Silence. I’m enjoying silence the most. Silence reminds me of how much we put up with noise in all its jarring, insistent forms.
On Sabbatical after seven years of busy parish ministry, I’m spending the first two weeks in a cabin huddled in the middle of woods and a good two miles from the nearest paved road. The hillside behind the cabin slopes down to meet the Shenandoah River, whose waters I can sometimes glimpse through the trees.
With no traffic noise, no barking dogs, no playing children, no roaring lawn mowers, no ringing telephones, no blaring television and very little airplane traffic, silence imbues the cabin like the scent of baking bread.
To be sure it’s not pure silence, which would be the absence of all noise, rather a deep, hushed stillness that enables the quietest sounds to be heard: The buzzing of the bug at the window in the next room. The ticking of the clock on the far wall. The songbirds in the trees outside.
Enveloped in silence, I find it easy to enter into a state of prayerful calm, relaxed and open to the presence of the Divine all around me. No wonder the Holy One advises us in Scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).
Surely, in the same way that the world’s “noise” overpowers the subtle sounds of buzzing bugs, ticking clocks and singing birds, it can also overwhelm us so we that fail to notice the presence of God, active and reaching out to us every moment.
Silence is an instrument of God to bring us into the presence of the divine. So noise and all its cousins — such as unnecessary busyness, mindless distraction and empty entertainment — are weapons of the enemy to keep us too overloaded to listen for the voice of our Lord calling us, or the sound of angels singing God’s praise.
Long after I leave these woods, my Sabbatical done, and I am once again in a community of rushing cars and deafening lawn mowers, I will seek out places and moments of silence to listen to God and restore my soul.
Where do you find silence?
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