THE LANGUAGE OF SILENCE
Mahatma Gandhi, the popular campaigner for India’s independence and non-violence, is a fascinating example of the language of silence. Often in the midst of a turbulent campaign you would find him offering silence to his followers. Sometimes, if he was too tired or the crowd too noisy, he would sit on the platform in silence until the crowd – which often numbered 200,000 people – became quiet. He then continued to sit in silence as the entire crowd joined him. Some time later he would stand, put his palms together to bless them, smile, and leave the platform. The mass silence was an exercise in self-control and self-searching. It was a form of communication without words.
In many parts of the world silence is valued. In our North American and European cultures, we use words to establish relationships. Many in Asian and African cultures, however, have come to understand the power of “presence” between people. A North American would say, “Pleased to meet you. How are you today?” While an African will say, “I see you.”
In our approach to God, why is it that we often feel we must do all the talking? Many are not inclined to pray because they cannot find sufficient words to pray. Possibly we need to try silence! When we do all the talking God has little time to reveal himself to us. Only in silence can we really discover the mystery of his presence.
It is said of St. Ignatius, a key leader in the early Church, that he looked for a quality of silence in all his church leaders. He said, “It is absurd anxiety for a church leader to feel that he or she must have something to say on every occasion. God alone has such knowledge.” God is a friend of silence.
In our worship and personal devotional time we need to give God space to speak. We need to learn the benefit, the rest, and spiritual awareness that only silence can bring. It is not true that by keeping silent we are saying nothing. Silence has its own language. It’s an expression of all kinds of moods and feelings.
Next time you pray, consciously try praying with just a few words – intermingled with periods of silence. Holy quietness. Maybe it’s a prayer that just incorporates the name, “Jesus.” Or possibly it’s a shorter prayer like “I trust you Lord.” Or “Have mercy on me, O God.” Or “Thank you Lord for your unconditional love for me.” Jesus cautioned us about wordy prayers. “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them,” Jesus said. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 67-8)
Silence is a recognition that God is God and knows everything! Therefore… “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on the earth, so let your words be few. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3, 7)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love
Lamentations 3:26; Psalm 46:10; Romans 8:26-27