On Quietude and Silence
A devotional by Lisa Lickel
“Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
–Habakkuk 2:19-20 (ESV)
–Habakkuk 2:19-20 (ESV)
In his book, Freedom of Simplicity, Richard J. Foster says, "Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on that."
Have you ever been in a meeting or a group activity at which one member verbally overflows and can’t find the shut-off valve? How does that make you feel? For me, I tend to go through the cycle of compassion for the speaker, then boredom about the third repetition, then wrestle with the desire to cut in and state my opinions, then frustration that I can’t get a word in edgewise, then disappointment or even anger if there’s a facilitator who won’t do his or her job and keep the purpose of the meeting flowing.
We tend to be afraid of silence—of the quiet—don’t we? The child who is quiet too long, the space between question and answer, the degree between deciding and decision. Am I wrong? Are they going to make of me? You’re wrong and I have to tell you why.
When we bought the property where we now live, my husband and I had a five-year discussion about where to eventually build the house. He had his reasons and I had mine. Mine had to do with the desire to be far away from the road and not be able to see neighboring houses. His had to do with the expense and work of maintaining a lengthy driveway. It wasn’t a contest and we each won. One of the common observations guests point out is “It’s so quiet.”
Except for the birds and the farm noises of our neighbors and the occasional clip-clop of horses and buggies, and the pheasant who crows at five thirty every morning outside our bedroom window, I think But yes. Exactly. Our home is a refuge from clamor. But there is still that meeting of the volunteer association, Bible study, of neighborhood get-togethers where we run into “motor mouths.”
As I grow in my refreshed faith, I am learning the practical aspects of quietude at home and in public. I appreciate the positives of what happens when I don’t run off my mouth, or even my thoughts, desperate to get my point across. You know the biggest benefit? I listen much better, and not just like the birds and the clip-clop of horses. I can hear the quiet places in my neighbors’ hearts and appreciate their beautiful made-in-Christ’s-image faces. Quite often, someone else in the group has the same thing to say that was on my heart and has a much better explanation.
We are siblings and heirs, or we need to be. Sometimes the Gospel is best modeled through a quiet attitude, and in silence.
My prayer: Thank you, Father God, for two ears and one mouth, and an open heart.
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives in the rolling hills of western Wisconsin.
A multi-published and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and workshop leader.
She is a member of Chicago Writers Association and part of Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc., mentoring writers from across the U.S.A. and Canada.
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Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2bPxi2X