Theatre gal now working in full-time ministry. Here to encourage you as you figure out a life lived pursuing Jesus.
I’ve never thought of silence as a beautiful anthem song.
I’m a woman of the theatre. I delight in spectacle, in the swelling of an orchestra into a grand crescendo, in lengthy sonnets that unveil the agony of the soul. I’ve always thought of worship as a similar experience, that it was supposed to leave you with goosebumps. It seems most churches nowadays would agree, with their impressive light displays and concert-worthy songs performed by worship leaders who look like they strolled out of urban outfitters (no shame in that).
I started to equate impressive to holy.
Even in my own prayers, I would unravel my thoughts with eloquence, attempting to write a new epistle in my Barnes & Noble journal. I thought this is what pleased God.
But as the stability of my life began to shake and the cracks in my faith started to reveal themselves, I lost the desire for spectacle.
As moving as the worship was, as convicting the sermon, as impactful the devotional, some part me felt like I was drawing from an empty well. I kept coming back just as thirsty as I was before, and I didn’t understand why. I was checking all the boxes of the “good Christian girl” archetype, but I knew I was still desperate for an internal healing. And wasn’t that Jesus’ promise?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
For months, I wondered where that glorious soul rest was. I was attending and serving in church weekly, reading God’s word every day (well, mostly), listening to sermons and podcasts in the car, playing worship music while I showered, and yet my spirit was marked with an unease. Suddenly, a spiritual practice presented itself that would shed light on a lie I, and I think many in my generation, have believed.
This is not just a practice, actually, but a command: silence. “Be still and know that I am God.” This verse was meant to be more than lovely wall decor or a tattoo but rather a spiritual discipline that would mold our hearts and minds to fit the shape of Christ.
You see, we, more than any other that has preceded us, are a generation of noise. We are fed with constant distractions and sound. Social media, streaming, and general entertainment beckon us to draw into the online community of humanity, giving us an empty sense of connection and satisfaction. But when the iPhone is locked, when the episode ends, we are left with that unsettled discomfort. And so, like the chatter of an unwanted conversation, we drown it out with more noise.
Therefore, it feels like a contradiction to our conditioned behavior to sit in silence, to give all that we suppress the space to speak. The point, however, is not for us to talk, but to listen.
A.W. Tozer said:
“Whoever will listen will hear the speaking of heaven. This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity, and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10), and still He says it as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.”
There is a life-altering spiritual connection that comes from sitting in silence with the presence of God. This is how the world is transformed. Remember, the rest of Psalm 46:10 reads, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” When we surrender our time, our thoughts, our voice, and give the Holy Spirit the space to show up, a renewal occurs. And from renewal, revival is often spurned.
For those of us currently living in the midst of this global pandemic in 2020, we are facing an unprecedented, unsettling time in history. I feel like I am constantly listening. I’m listening to news reports and statistics. To TikToks and videos featuring a pants-less John Krasinksi. To applause for healthcare workers. To complaints from just about everyone over the lack of toilet paper.
Even though many of us are at home 24/7, refreshing the IRS page for our stimulus check status, we need rest now more than ever. We need a strength that is not our own and a peace that surpasses understanding.
When I was first introduced to the practice of silence and meditation, this is where I was encouraged to start. I sat down for my devotional or reading for scripture, turned my phone on do not disturb, and started a timer for two minutes. Slowly, this time builds. It expands to five minutes and then ten. In all transparency, I’m still at two. That’s okay. The important thing is to start somewhere.
And trust me, I understand that it’s hard to let your mind settle into silence. As soon as I quiet everything else, it’s like every thought in the back of my head decides to stir up. So, I choose a word or phrase to help maintain my focus, such as “holy,” or “greater is He that is in me than He who is in the world.” When my attention begins to drift, I gently bring it back by coming back to that phrase.
I can’t tell you what you’ll walk away with from these times of stillness. Some days I feel like the Holy Spirit is truly speaking to me, and other days it feels like all I did was sit for two minutes. My encouragement to you is that no matter what each day’s outcome is, continue to show up. As Hebrews 4:8 tells us, when we draw near, He draws near.
So as we continue in our daily spiritual battle, a battle many of us are feeling like we’re fighting even harder right now, let our marching song be a beautiful, silent anthem.
March, march, march.