by Rev. Deacon Lisa McGehee
Animals have an uncanny knack for reading the moods and habits of their human companions. My cat Pippin knows the precise moment when I wake up in the morning. As my eyes open he is jumps on the bed for his morning head rub. His brother Twitter is my quiet-time and reading partner. The more I settle into the quiet, the closer he snuggles beside me. That’s what happens when we enter into silence, we snuggle closer to God and we realize how close God is to us.
The BBC TV series The Big Silence tells the story of 5 people invited to learn how to incorporate silence into their lives. During the nine day retreat the only time they were able to speak out loud was during daily meetings with a spiritual guide and when they created their video log that shared the ups and downs the participants experienced during this extreme introduction to silence.
Before I lose you, I’m not suggesting you go on a nine day retreat. With our daily schedules of doctor’s appointments, soccer practice, teaching, preparing sermons, working and preparing meals, you are probably like me – it’s almost impossible to find silence. We are surrounded by noise. A single room in our homes can have a T.V., several phones, computers, conversations, and the chatter in our own heads. Sadly, noise has become so pervasive that we are entering into a time where we do not know what silence, well, what silence sounds like. It’s not easy, but it is vital because as Abbot Christopher Jamison shares in The Big Silence, “Silence is a path that leads us to God and takes us to the center of who we are. It is the gateway to the soul and it is the gateway to God.”
In silence we will know God as we listen for God’s voice calling to us. This is reason enough to be silent. It does take practice, however. Just this morning as I prepared to practice contemplative prayer, Twitter had another idea of how I was to spend my time. The more I tried to be quiet the more he rubbed his head on my arm. Each time I petted him he cried a loud meow. At first I was irritated and then thought, “Is this what God feels like when I don’t pay attention to God? Does God try to get my attention through both quiet and loud voices? Instead of listening, I often give a few seconds of acknowledgement and then move on to the next thing.” As I pondered this both Twitter and I began to settle deeper into the silence.
This week, I encourage you to find time each day for silence. You do not need to go away on retreat to find silence. You can have your own retreat wherever you are. Try this. Take a deep breath. Repeat Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God.” (NRSV) Say it to yourself one time. The next time drop the word “God”, the next time drop “am” and so on until you have the word “be”. It’s in the being that we enter into the silence. Now, sit in silence for 30 seconds. That’s it for the first day. The next day, add 30 more seconds. Continue adding until you reach 20 minutes. It will take 40 days to reach 20 minutes. Forty in scripture symbolizes a time of trial or a journey. At the end of the 40 days one is renewed and restored. Imagine how your soul and your life will be renewed after spending time with God each day.
Lisa is an ordained deacon who serves as the Associate Minister at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Richmond, Virginia. You can follow Lisa on twitter @LisaMcGehee64