What’s the Point of Silence?

silence post+

 

For years, I would never have even considered sitting alone in silence.

I saw no point to it.  For an extrovert who measures her self-worth in doing rather than just being, sitting in silence seemed like a waste of precious resources. Nothing useful could be accomplished. There was no time for it.

I defined my days by how productive I was: what I got accomplished, what I crossed off my to-do list. If I could multi-task- call a friend while checking my email and paying bills- all the better.

Sometimes unexplained feelings would appear, tears would well up uncontrollably, anger would boil into rage within seconds. I didn’t know where these emotions came from and I was too busy to figure it out. Too busy or too afraid.

I didn’t want to know what was going on inside of me. It was easier to live on the surface. And less painful.

But at a friend’s urging, I went away on a silent retreat, mostly to get away from the stress of everyday life. I wasn’t sure what I would do or discover, but I knew too much of my life was unexamined. Too many emotions pushed down. Too many events unprocessed.

Though extraordinarily painful, those few days changed me. I rediscovered myself. And God.

Since then I have actively sought silence as passionately as I used to seek busyness.

In the silence, I encounter the living God. In the silence, I am free to face the ugliness of my soul and the beauty of God’s work in me. The “me” that I have been ignoring in my desire to get more accomplished.

There are no externals to distract me and I bring nothing of my own to God. Nothing but the insecure, sinful, broken me.

In the silence, I am not producing, performing or achieving. This is challenging since “doing” has always been my preferred mode of operation. It’s easier to do things for God. They are measurable and predictable. Volunteer to serve. Do my Bible study. Listen to a troubled friend.

While these are important, God wants so much more than my “doing.”    He wants me to know Him, the infinite, unpredictable, and dangerous God, who asks more from me than I want to give.  He wants everything. All of me. Not just my Bible study time in the morning and my prayers at night and my doing the right thing during the day. In the silence, everything is laid bare. I can’t hide behind my doing; I must wrestle with who I am and what is really inside of me.

In silence I can hear what’s stirring inside me. The emotions I push aside because they make me cringe as they flash through my mind. The fears that I suppress because I’d rather not face them. The sins that I don’t want to admit to anyone, including myself. The longings that I can’t verbalize and dismiss instead as crazy dreams.

Everything that’s buried deep inside of me comes out in silence.

It’s not neat and packaged. Just a jumble of thoughts and emotions. As these fragments bubble to the surface, I bring them to God, and ask Him where they belong.  Is He revealing something I need to see? Are these emotions to be dealt with or distractions to be pushed aside?  Only He knows, and I offer them all to Him.

I often get frustrated that I’m not more focused. While I want this period of silence to be productive, to yield-life changing insight every time, what I gain is not measurable. I usually cannot even express what is different.

But God whispers to me that lasting change is slow, incremental, often imperceptible. It starts in my heart, at the roots, hidden from everyone but God, and works its way up to the fruit where it becomes visible.

The change I perceive most readily is that I become more self-aware. The sinful tendencies that I have come to accept as part of my personality surface as I recollect my recent interactions. I notice my need for control and my desire to be right. And my overarching goal of being liked by everyone. God knows all these weaknesses and is tenderly inviting me to face them with Him.

Without judgment.

There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. My righteousness is in Christ. I bring nothing of my own. Since I know that my heart is deceitful and wicked, beyond cure, there is nothing to fear as I sit with the Lord and uncover the dark thoughts lurking in my soul.

But even more than the insights I gain into my life, just sitting with God, listening for Him, waiting silently in His presence does soul work in me. The Lord says, “Be still and I know that I am God.” When I am still, I can know Him more fully. I have no doubts about His existence. His presence is unmistakable.

Long after the quiet has ended, I am left with a lingering settledness in my soul, a peace with being rather than doing, and a sense of equilibrium. Making room for silence has made my life feel spacious. Not crammed together and hurried, always running to the next thing.

While I cannot articulate what’s changed in me, after extended time alone with God, I am renewed. Grounded. Secure. I want more of Him. And the more time I spend with Him, the more attuned I am to His voice. In Acts, the synagogue leaders marveled at the disciples’ transformation. And they recognized that remarkable change occurred simply by being with Jesus. And so it is with me.

It is not merely the act of sitting in silence that has accomplished all this in me. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. If the Word hadn’t been a backdrop for my life, and the truths about God not woven into my soul, it would have been just a self-help exercise. But as it was, sitting alone with Jesus has been the single most transformative action in my spiritual growth. It has given me insight into my heart, a hunger for the Word and a passion for God that grows deeper every year.

I had no idea what riches were waiting for me in the silence.

  • April 21, 2015 - 10:06 am

    Sheiran - Vaneetha has shared a perfectly beautiful work from her heart and soul, so much of which speaks from my heart. Jesus is truly the love of my life and I am so thankful for the privilege of being a child of the King.ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2015 - 2:52 pm

    Youlanda - Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2015 - 10:29 pm

    Megan - Hi Vaneetha,

    Your ‘contact’ link doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m posting this as a comment here instead of emailing. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your article on DG this week. I think this issue of finding joy in God was a great challenge for me (and still is a bit) in my early Christian walk and college years. I was trying to find happiness in my life, and was mad at God when I found myself disappointed with the world around me. Who knew I was never suppose to look to it for my joy in the first place! 🙂 Thanks again for this reminder that HE is our prize and we should remind ourselves of this whenever we get distracted by our Earthly affairs and circumstances.

    ~MeganReplyCancel

    • April 23, 2015 - 8:37 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Megan. I find I need to constantly remind myself that He is the ultimate treasure when I get too caught up in the troubles or pleasures of this life. Knowing Him surpasses it all!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2015 - 8:09 am

    Nancy - Since my dearest love passed away three months ago, I have dreaded the silence of not hearing his voice.
    Your words encourage me to listen for Jesus’s voice in that silence of loneliness

    Thank youReplyCancel

    • April 23, 2015 - 8:38 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry Nancy. Praying as I write this that you will find Jesus in the silence and He will lovingly comfort you.ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2015 - 8:42 pm

    Lisa Harper - A perfect reminder I so needed today. I tend to absorb the stresses of daily life….only to seemingly succumb to those same stresses each and every day. Having recently returned to work after a short break, I find myself drowning in all the negativity I see and hear daily. Going through a change in life doesn’t help the matter either. But I know that HE is a true gift and HIS unfailing love will sustain me no matter what I allow to burden me. Thank you for this timely message. I’m so blessed I found your page from another link. God bless you:) by the way I’m in NC too.ReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2015 - 9:36 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Lisa. What a great reminder for me that “HIS unfailing love will sustain me”… Amen.ReplyCancel

  • April 24, 2015 - 1:02 am

    Kim - Hi Vaneetha,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and your writing, and am amazed at how connected my heart feels to your words. So much of what you have written has been the exact same thing on my heart and mind. I struggle each day to want to seek Christ for who He is and not for what He can give me but if I’m honest I want my desires to be fulfilled. To see my health problems resolved, to see broken relationships restored, to see fruit growing in my life and my children’s lives. Yet, do I long to see Christ?? To see Him and absorb who He is so I can reflect Him? I have always loved those verses in Acts when the Jewish leaders knew the unlearned disciples had been with Jesus. And I want that for myself too.
    But He isn’t always safe on my terms and sometimes the most radical thing I can do is less visible and productive but much more internal and obscure – aligning my heart with His and seeking after the interests of God and not men. Being still in the secret hour. Thank you for writing and for processing your thoughts with us. So glad to have found your blog! 🙂

    KimReplyCancel

    • April 24, 2015 - 9:38 am

      Vaneetha - I totally relate to all your comments Kim. Glad we are on this journey together. Its a struggle for me to be obscure and unproductive…and yet that yields the greatest fruit… Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2015 - 8:35 am

    Rani - Dear Vaneetha,

    I cannot tell you how much i saw myself as i was reading throughthis blog. I was smiling and sighing . From the look of it i we both have very similar temperament 🙂 It’s amazing to see Gods ways. I totally understand what you meant by saying ” to yield-life changing insight every time”. I too am being led by God to maintain a silent phase on a daily basis.

    Thank you for writing as it did confirm many things the Lord has been speaking to me over past few weeks now. Yes and i totally agree that only when we are silent before Him, He start’s an amazing work in our lives.

    God bless you dear sister and i am grateful and amazed at seeing His grace in your writing that encourages many like me walking down the same road .

    Praise GodReplyCancel

    • April 30, 2015 - 5:26 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad God used this, Rani. Its a bit of struggle for me to find time for silence- but when I do I am so thankful I did! Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

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