Reverence and the silence of God


When was the last time that you experienced pure stillness and silence?

I had a conversation with a pastor last week who shared how rare it is for her to have moments of silence.  Even when she is alone and not in the physical presence of others, e-mails are coming in, her to-do list is nagging her, her children are active upstairs, she’s running sermon prep through her head, or she’s playing music.  Silence isn’t golden…it’s non-existent.

I find that it’s not always the demands of others that keep silence at bay.  When given moments to pause, even at a stoplight or in-between phone calls at work, I feel the need to fill these times of silence with words or actions.  It is easy for me to fill the moment with another task, a duty, a phone call, an e-mail.

But if we are not familiar with silence in our day-to-day lives, what happens when we feel that God is silent, either to us or to those that we care about?  How much more fear-inducing or uncomfortable are those times when we experience God’s distance?

Barbara Brown Taylor speaks to the silence of God as a mystery to be entered into with reverence.

“I believe we do more for those in our care by teaching them about the silence of God than we do by trying to explain it away. By addressing the experience of God’s silence in scripture and in our listeners’ own lives, we may be able to open up the possibility that silence is as much a sign of God’s presence as of God’s absence – that divine silence is not a vacuum to be filled but a mystery to be entered into, unarmed with words and distracted by noise – a holy of holies in which we too may be struck dumb by the power of the unsayable God. Our job is not to pierce that mystery with language but to reverence it.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor, When God is Silent

Heeding this wisdom, during Lent, I’m pursuing more time in silence and attempting to both acknowledge and welcome God’s overflowing presence in that space. In particular, I’m aiming to spend twenty minutes of silence per day in Centering Prayer and fasting from the radio on my commute to and from work.  My hope is that I become more hospitable toward silence and replace the false busyness and action with obedience to God.

Catherine Wilson

Top image by flickr user seyed mostafa zamani, lower by -Delphine-, both via creative commons

2 thoughts on “Reverence and the silence of God

  1. I recently had the privilege to attend a Centering Prayer Workshop to learn more deeply about the practice of centering in silence.

    I had been practicing silence for nearly six months after an introduction at a Spirited Life retreat, and it was encouraging to be with others who enter into silence with God on a daily basis as well.

    As a pastor, centering in silence enables me to meet the raucous world with stability and grace.

  2. I think centering silence is important in worship as well.
    I started having a time of silence after the Hymn of Reflection and before the sermon. My organist/pianist wanted to play softly but I asked him to allow the silence. We started with just a few seconds but over time, I’ve extended it. I believe it takes us to a different place as we listen for God in His word read and His word proclaimed.

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