Theologian Howard Thurman writes,
“There is very great virtue in the cultivation of silence, and strength to be found in using it as a door to God. Such a door opens within. When I have quieted down, I must spend some time in self-examination in the presence of God.”
The trouble with silence is that many people feel the need to fill the void of silence with unnecessary conversation, with social media, with television, with music, with or with noise of some form or fashion. Silence can be perplexing and can make one feel uncomfortable and unaccompanied, that’s why homes are filled with unattended TV’s that have been left on when nobody is watching, simply for cacophonic background noise. Without noisy interruptions, we can feel bombarded by unpleasant thoughts and emotions. All the ways we’re unhappy about ourselves and our choices come raging back into our awareness when there’s space for them to arise—in silence. It’s really no surprise, then, that our culture is contentious and intimidated by silence. However, despite cultural uneasiness with silence, the ability to be with silence is critical to getting to core of who we are—self-examination in the presence of God!
As we develop in this discipline of silence and deepen our ability to interlude in the presence of God, we become aware of our faults, weaknesses, doors closed, and missed opportunities. Yet, this becomes the occasion to “ask, seek, and knock,” and to await heavenly assistance to provide spiritual nourishment. Silence calms our soul, relaxes our inhibitions, and ushers us into the presence of God.
Silence calms our soul:
“Don’t worry. Be happy” was a popular song in late 80’s and though the song was catchy; I found out it was not that easy to mimic. I, like many, used to be plagued with anxiety, worry, and daily stress. My mind wouldn’t let me rest. Why did I make this decision? …What will they think about me? …How am I going to pay my bills? …What if I am not good enough? Literally, my mind, body, and soul were in constant duress. Later, I realized I was harming myself and I turned to God to calm my anxiety and rejuvenate my soul. It is in these moments that we must learn how to trust God to calm our anxious minds.
Silence relaxes our inhibitions:
In such a moment, we are free from our vulnerabilities, tensions, embarrassments; yet, it allows us to re-engineer our personalities. When the world has taken a toll on our soul (as it often does), and we are dried up like a “raisin in the sun”, silence provides a way for the Son to restore us, give us bursts of energy, and make us more fruitful. Out of this uneasiness, everything is possible, because instead of fear, shame and guilt, you experience the fullness of spiritual energy without tension. The more relaxed we become in the presence of God, the fresher we feel, full of potential for creativity and innate joy.
Silence ushers us into the presence of God:
In the presence of God, His majestic radiance unpacks so much that we have taken for granted. Being in His presence, we become exposed to His scrutiny and our sins and pride are laid bare in front of Him. Yes, self-examination allows us to seek forgiveness, to forgive, and to repent. His presence bathes us so that we can immerge more humble and aware of the fallacies of life. The Psalmist puts it best when he says,
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”—Psalm 16:11
Silence is not our antagonist but a virtue. Our ability to practice silence in the presence of God may confirm that we are intensely interested in what God is doing within and around us. Unplug from social media, turn off the TV, mute the music, and create an atmosphere of silence—you soul will thank you later!
Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Brooks is currently the Youth & Young Adult Pastor at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Herndon, VA and is a 2014 graduate of the Certificate in Youth & Theology program from the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is a sought after ministry practitioner with a passion for youth ministry, urban ministry, race, theology, and leadership.