Spiritual Training Cycle: Foundation (wk. 6/13)
I grew up in a household with three older brothers. If one wasn’t picking on me trying to make me scream, they were wrestling knocking holes in the walls or arguing with each other. I don’t recall our house ever really being quiet until I was the only sibling still left at home. I remember my mom singing out loud when the house was chaos “silence is golden; golden.”
For some silence is golden. For others silence can be crippling. Silence can be both of those, but what does our perception of silence teach us?
First, let’s start with how we define silence. Silence is a deep focus on God by turning off the world around us.
Depending on where or the time-of-day silence teaches me different things.
When I’m on a walk by myself and I don’t turn on music, I notice and appreciate the world around me more. I talk to God and thank Him for the beauty He has created. The breeze on a cool day, the warmth of the sun when it’s hot, the breath in my lungs and a body that can do the things I love. The silence in this moment is an opportunity to worship God and His creation.
However, when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep in the middle of the night with no noise and distraction from the outside world, the silence reveals a range of thoughts, emotions, and memories. Sometimes it’s too much. It’s in those moments that I intentionally repeat scripture memory verses or pray to draw myself away from the fears, doubts, and irrationally dreamt up scenarios that creep in at 1am. This silence teaches me that I need God. I need His word. I need His peace. I need His stillness so I can truly rest my mind, my soul, and my body. After about 5-10 minutes of repeating scripture or praying I usually drift right back to sleep.
A friend once told me she thinks those restless nights where we can’t go back to sleep until we start praying or talking to God, that He’s usually the one who woke us up as an invitation to talk to Him distraction-free. It makes me think of when a child wakes up in the middle of the night and crawls into bed with their parents because they can’t go back to sleep on their own. They were up stirring, probably scared, and once they feel the love, safety, and presence of their parents sleeping right beside them, they immediately fall back asleep. I like to think that God longs to be that for us as well.
One of the reasons I loved racing triathlons and road races was the hours of silence in training and racing. There’d be times I’d ride or run and think of nothing at all. It was easy to talk to God during those times because it’s not a very technical movement. You ride and run in a straight line, apply the brakes every so often, dodge a few people while you’re passing them and that’s it.
In CrossFit, good gosh. The thoughts never stop. Over the years I’ve learned to quiet most of the chatter in my mind and focus on one phrase for the movements I need help with. In competitions, I’ll repeat scripture verses in my mind “I can do all things through Christ” or simply “all things; all things” “Be strong and courageous and do the work” or just “do the work” over and over. But specifically in the technical movements, when you could tell yourself 100 different cues, I focus on just one. “Hips”, “big leg drive”, “push up on the bar”, etc. and I repeat it over and over. I don’t play golf, but I’d imagine it’s similar. The technique and cues to get that perfect swing are probably endless when maybe you just need one word to cue your body into hitting the ball where it needs to go.
To get our focus where it needs to go, we also need just one word: God.
As I was preparing this devotional The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel came to mind and naturally, I had to listen to it. This line in particular spoke to me: “And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made...”
There are invitations all around us to have a deep focus on God, but we’ve gotten so used to it not being an option. Instead, we bow and pray to a neon god we’ve made. Outdoor walks have turned into an opportunity to listen to the newest podcast episode. Folding laundry has become the opportunity to catch up on trash tv, not being able to sleep in the middle of the night is an invitation to pick up our phone and scroll Instagram.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
In a world that monetizes our distractions and lack of silence we must be extremely intentional to carve out the time to seek it. How can we ask God to move in our lives or lead us when we don’t allow for the stillness and silence to feel His guidance?
I’ve heard people say “God doesn’t speak in a loud voice. He whispers.” He wants us to lean in and get close to Him, to shut off the noises around us so we can hear the whisper.
Questions for Reflection:
Where in your day can you build intentional blocks of silence?
Does silence make you uncomfortable? If so, why?
Have you ever felt the presence of God when you’ve been intentionally still and silent?