Thursday, July 17, 2014


I recently heard someone compare life to a dirty fish tank that is constantly being stirred. The speaker went on to say that the only thing that stops the stirring is silence. In silence, the dirt and debris of our life settles so that we can see more clearly.

As I grow in the practice of the discipline of silence, I am beginning to experience the truth of that assertion.

Silence is a holy habit that I am actively integrating into my daily life. And honestly, I've been reluctant to blog about it because, well, silence isn't exactly exciting. Actually it sounds downright dull, like a discipline that monks invented simply because no one had anything interesting to say.

Now I've long been a lover of quietness, but I like it quiet so that I can engage in activities like reading or writing. And while I am silent when I read and write, such verbal activities hardly qualify as periods of silence, for my mind is still stimulated by internal dialogue and therefore the waters are still being stirred.

The prophet Isaiah wrote these words to the people of Israel:
For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing. 
Rest and quietness are essential to salvation and strength. But often, I am not willing. I am not willing to put down the iPad, to close the book, the turn off the T.V., to set aside the laptop. I am not willing to leave the dishes, to overlook the dust, to ignore the notifications, to limit the number of news articles I read. The king of the universe offers me the grace of his presence, and I do not still myself to experience it.

The world presses in, and every day seems fuller and busier than the last one. The to-do list knows no end, and the tasks before me are both urgent and important.

The water is swirling, swirling.

I get swept up in the movement, thinking that if I just move faster or work smarter I can make it stop. Only all my efforts only make the water muddier. There is no way to work it into calm, to whisk it into stillness. I can't make the water stop, but if I STOP MYSELF, if I take time to be silent and still, I will find that the waters slow. And if I stay still long enough, the water will cease to stir, and the debris will finally settle.

Then, and only then, do I find clarity. Life begins to make sense. I can hear the voice of Truth. I can see the way forward--or find the patience to keep waiting. I discover the reality of my faith, the source of my strength, the reason for my hope, and the root of my joy. In silence, I know his love. I hear him rejoice over me with singing. I long to please him. And finally, I receive my marching orders for the day.

And so my new routine is this: Each morning, I wake up, I put on my running clothes, I pour a cup of tea, and sit for 10 to 20 minutes in silence. Sometimes I read a verse or a passage at the beginning, sometimes I save it for after my time of silence. As thoughts whiz through my mind, I lift them silently before the Father, but I resist dwelling on them. I see them as debris that is settling. Eventually, my thoughts stop screaming at me.

Then I experience what the Psalmist referred to when he wrote, "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother. My soul is like a weaned child within me."

I rest there in that quiet place, content. I am not squirming in anxious prayer, I am satisfied and still.

I've quickly grown attached to the habit of silence. It started as a discipline, but I find that I'm eager for it every morning. I rise earlier and earlier just so that I can have more time--for I'm learning that I don't just want to find the still waters, I want to soak in them.

Have you ever practiced the discipline of silence? Why or why not? Tell me about your experience. 


  1. My dear, dear spiritual friend, while I need say not one word, I will tell you that I love what you have written, "I don't just want to find the waters, I want to soak in them." Soak away! Much love in Jesus, Karen

  2. I wrote a really long comment about silence in Quaker meeting for worship. I am not sure what happened to it. But now I will write a very short rendition and perhaps that was all that was needed in the first place. Collective silence in the Quaker worship is an opportunity for God to make his will specifically voiced and heard through the leading of His Spirit. I love that this is both a listening and speaking endeavor.... When someone breaks the silence. We listen - we listen for God in the speaker's voicing. When we sit in silence we listen for God speaking to us and urging us (or not) so speak on His behalf to the gathered people. When we break the silence, we share what God's providence is urging us to share. We make mistakes in our listening and voicing, but God works even through those. I have had a long practice of silent meditation, but finding the Quaker worship experience was my first collective Christian experience with this deep silence. It has deepened my faith.