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Silence is golden: Unplug and attune yourself to Spirit of God


For the first Sunday of the New Year, I was asked to help with morning worship at my home congregation. John Mitchell, a financial advisor, was to speak on Bible reading to promote spiritual growth. Tom Poteet, an engineering consultant, was assigned the topic of growing through prayer. My specific assignment was the idea of listening to the Spirit of God. The specific suggestion was that I direct the audience to be silent for eight to 10 minutes. What a sobering thought — 1,500 people silent for 10 minutes. Silence is unexpected during public worship. We expect the audience to be silent when we are praying or listening to a sermon. But silence frightened me. I decided to speak about a minute about listening to the Spirit as God leads us. I was afraid eight minutes of silence would be a vast wasteland.
My mother used to tell me, “Silence is golden.” That always occurred when I had been telling stories endlessly. She needed a little silence to regain her sanity.
The song leader at the Eastside church in Tulsa, Okla., used to begin morning worship singing “The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him.” The sentiment was lofty, but the youth always thought a certain rebuke was implied in the song.
Later, when Joyce and I were first married and attending church in Bartlesville, Okla., the congregation had an amazing culture. Hugo McCord, the preacher, had taught the church to practice total silence as they came to the auditorium. Hugo and Lois always sat on the second row, not speaking to each other or anyone who passed by. Visiting or exchanging pleasantries breeched the cultural code. We have often looked back on worship at that congregation as enriching and inspiring.
I personally work, think and rest best with silence. But I suspect I am in the minority. Most of my family wants something to fill the background when they read or study. College students studying outside my office must have their iPods adjusted before they start reading, writing or studying.
Psalms says much about silence. The psalmist encourages God not to be silent when human injustice and brutality develop. He urges people to be silent to hear the voice of God. Job, as one part of the complex story, sits with his three friends for seven days without anyone speaking. And Revelation describes silence in heaven for half an hour.
So whether you love to be surrounded by sound or retreat to a quiet place, you need to attune yourself to listen to the Spirit of God. Many believe that God speaks only through the Bible and communicates no other way to the minds of men. A few believe that God speaks to them directly about every circumstance of life. Most believe that God speaks through the Bible and his Spirit prompts their spirits to understand what to do or say in circumstances.
The sound of silence can be frightening, or it can be comforting. Drawing closer to God may require that you establish silence so that your mind and spirit can focus on God and his communication. Silence often helps us sort out ideas and options that we are contemplating. I worry about people who cannot bear to have no sounds around them: I am not judging them. I am encouraging all Christians to seek God in silence. The sound of silence opens minds and hearts to experiencing God.
Back to the 10 minutes of silence in worship. I have already acknowledged that I did not have the courage to say nothing. I did refrain from giving a long speech. I introduced the idea of listening so that we are ready to hear the Spirit speak to us. I asked the church so spend 90 seconds in prayer and then to either spend several minutes of silent personal mediation or follow through a series of Scriptures describing the work of the Holy Spirit.
As I sat on the front row during those eight minutes, I heard nothing but a few crying children and the rustling sounds of Bible pages turning. Afterward, no one accused me of copping out. And many people shared with all three speakers that the worship helped them connect with God and clarify their resolution for spiritual growth during the new year.
I remain convinced that silence is golden. Silence encourages thought and introspection. It encourages an uncluttered look at the deepest corners of our minds. It allows an honest appraisal of what our lives are worth in God’s sight. It promotes confessing to God our sins. It allows us to revel in and celebrate God’s grace.
Silence is golden. But silence has its greatest meaning in its contrasts. A family reunion with food, laughter, stories and a little bragging by every person. A church potluck with joyous camaraderie, talk, stories, laughter, tears and love. The warm embrace and open conversations by loving couples of any age. A time of being alone with God is richest when it anticipates reunion of community.

Filed under: Insight

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