THE POWER OF SILENCE AND STILLNESS
The title of this article probably sounds like one of the many oxymorons we hear everyday. Such as, "act naturally, genuine imitation, exact estimate, clearly misunderstood or taped live." To say there is power in silence and stillness sounds counterintuitive in today's frenetic culture. It also seems to be unattainable and to be avoided in time when we are held hostage by technology. Technology has over stimulated us, creating the pop cultural disease known as F.O.M.O.; an acronym for the fear of missing out. Screens are everywhere vying for our attention. The war for our attention has reduced our attention span to that of a gnat. For example, I've read that the American population checks their phones 8 billion times per day! We don't deal very well with stimulus deprivation. We equate stimulus deprivation with separation from what is really important in the world. Our default setting is, "It's just our way of life!" In reality, it is robbing us of life! Our minds incessantly reprocess the past and obsess over the future. Psychologists have proven that 80% of our thoughts are negative and that we usually recycle the same thoughts we have today tomorrow. It is interesting that one form of spreading information is called "viral marketing." A virus was once only known as an infection or disease. Now, in the information age, it includes the incessant glamour that is characteristic of our culture.
One of the best known sound bites of the Psalms is.."Be still, and know that I am God." Only eight words that can be read by taking a single breath, yet we read them mindlessly instead of mindfully. Why? Because we are afraid of "dead air." Dead air is a term used in the broadcast industry to describe the much dreaded interruption in programming where there is no sound. I believe that God speaks the loudest in silence. There are many examples of this in scripture where people who were desperate to hear from God, but were unable to until they were divinely sequestered. Moses did not hear God until he was in the desert with only the sounds of the howling wind and the bleating sheep. Elijah, a political refugee, hears God not in thunderous tones, but in whispers as he cowers in a dark cave. Samuel, a groggy child, is awakened from slumber and hears the unfamiliar voice of his destiny calling.
Getting used to stillness and silence will not come without a struggle. When you decide to practice it, every internal voice will vie for your attention. Your memory banks have archived thousands of recordings that contain sound bytes that bite. Do you ever have moments when things are so quiet you can hear yourself breathing? Have you laid in bed at night and can hear your pulse? These bodily rhythms that are drowned out by the pandemonium of our waking existence are reminders that God is heard better in stillness and silence. The volume of His voice becomes amplified when we are oblivious to ambient sounds and stimuli.
What we focus on will always determine what we miss. So practicing stillness and silence will require us to be intentional. This Psalm invites us to unplug, be fully present and ponder each word. The sequence is so important to the experience of discovering the power awaiting you. Most Christians associate praise and worship with singing, and prayer with talking to God. Is it possible that silence is prayer? The Psalmist understands that sometimes language is limited, and so it’s best to experience God with the heart rather than the mind, silently embraced in His love. The prophet Habakkuk said, "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." The apostle John says in Revelation after the opening of the seventh seal there was "silence in heaven for about a half hour." How long should be spent in silence before the Lord? If heaven could be silent before God for half an hour, maybe we should too.”
Here is a profoundly simple exercise for you to practice the power of stillness and silence. Mindfully ponder each word:
-"Be." Resist doing anything and just be in the present moment with no thoughts of being elsewhere. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."
-"Still." Not just externally, but internally. Start by simply being aware of your inhaling and exhaling. God took the first breath on this planet at the creation. Inspiration means "God breathed." Just breathe.
-"Know." In this space your knowing will not be limited to what you have known or think you need to know. You will first experience what feels like to be known.
-"He is God." He is sovereign, reigning over all, in all and through all. There is a God, and I'm not him. I am not here to learn how to survive but to surrender.