During my songwriting years, I thought the action happened in the recording sessions and on stage. During my time as a church planter, I thought the action happened in the constant growth and success of the church. During my stint as a running coach, I thought the action happened with excited athletes and winning teams. Now as I have gotten older, I have come to believe the action is somewhere else entirely—in fact, in the one place I would have never expected:
Silence is where the action is. What do I mean?
In a recent men's retreat I led for a church, the closing comments from the participants did not center around the teaching or the discussion but around the guided times of silence. The extended space given to them to journal, pray, and listen ended up being the place of real refreshment and challenge. Something important happened when they sat in the quiet. They were learning that silence is where the action is.
I too have felt the power of silence. A week ago, I was reading the story of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand. As I was meditating, I was struck with my own resistance to Jesus' work in my life. Deep down, I have always tried to manage my redemption and healing, partly because it keeps me in control, but partly because I don't know what it means to trust someone that much with my heart. I was gently confronted with the sin of trying to save myself and the need to let Him to heal me in HIs own way. To be exposed and loved that way could only happen in the quiet on my back porch. I was learning again that silence is where the action is.
Finally, I just finished an article about silence from a molecular biologist in which the numerous spiritual and emotional benefits of silence were detailed. But what caught my surprise was a study of several groups of mice, each exposed to differing types of noise (white noise, ambient house sounds, classical music, etc.) except for the one exposed to silence. It was this latter group that experienced the most growth and retention of new neurons in the brain. If this is parallel to our experience as humans, it seems that our brains experience physical transformation in the quiet. Again, silence is where the action is.
But what is it exactly about silence that makes it so compelling? For one thing, you can keep the mask on at work or at home. You can keep the front up with your friends or church community. But you can't bring the false self for long into the silence. At some point, the quiet pierces the posing and your deep longings and pains surface. But there is more. The Bible is the story of God's abiding presence and persistent work on our behalf. When we stop and enter the silence, we become more attuned to how God is present and working in our lives, right here, right now. In doing so, our lives unexpectedly become part of the Bible's continuing story. Finally, in the silence we discover that our being is not rooted in activity but in quiet communion with God. We humble ourselves and allow Him to serve us there, empowering us to go out and then serve others.
In the end, silence is where the action is because it is where He is. Find a way to enter that silence today—and keep entering it. It is your peace, your strength, your very life.
"The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him" (Hab. 2:20).