The rare sound of silence

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

So says Jack Kerouac.  I read that many years ago, and I added it to a list of quotes I was compiling on the subject of silence.  What follows are a few others.

Henri Nouwen said this: “It is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people would be better served by our silence than by our words.”

Francis of Assisi is well know for saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

In the times we live in, these are welcome reminders.

Silence is a powerful shelter from the verbal storms that surround us.  All around there are arguments, speculations, hypotheses, and mad raving about all sorts of subjects.  It is easy to be drawn into these.  Most of the time, they end up bringing anxiety and division.

By keeping silent we are not drawn into these types of destructive conversation.  Everybody has an opinion.  We know so much.  We all have something to say about current events.  We must lend our view to the cesspool!!!

If you’re like me, you find that your own verbosity (and constantly hearing other people’s great and endless wisdom) oftentimes only leaves you feeling tired and stressed out.  We wonder if we said the right thing.  We wonder if we edited that salty post quick enough before it was captured and re-posted without our fine tuning.  We imagine how we could have said things better to make more impact.  We wonder if our words landed anywhere and made any difference in the battle we are fighting.

In contrast, if you’re on the listening end, the anxiety remains still.  We stare at the screen in disbelief that someone we thought we knew so well is saying such things as they are.  We read yet another conspiracy theory about somebody somewhere and get worked up, wondering if it’s true.  We find ourselves agitated and angry after reading (and maybe adding to) social media that exists only to assassinate another person’s character.

The Bible offers another way for people who will place its importance over their political or personal paradigms:  Battles worth fighting are often won through silence.

When Moses prepared to take on the unstoppable force that was Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, God told him that He would fight while Moses kept silent.  Ezekiel found the Lord not in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the quiet whisper.  Remarkably, when Jesus was arrested, tortured, and falsely accused, he said very little.

In such a time as we find ourselves, perhaps it would be wise to follow the Scriptural example of God himself found in Psalm 12.  There we learn that the words of God are pure, like silver tried seven times in a furnace.  I suggest that if we tried our words seven times before speaking them, they might have much more value.

In closing, along with Jon Foreman I would say this:  If I’m adding to the noise, turn off this song.  This little essay could be just one more opinion among many.

But perhaps it reaches deeper and calls you to a place of silence.  If that’s the case, maybe go sit under a tree and stare at the sky for a long time like Saint Augustine did.  Perhaps after that, when words are necessary, we will find the right ones, and they will be simple.

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