Some people long for silence whilst others fear it.
In just over a week’s time I’ll be attending the Retreat Association conference in Derbyshire which this year has the intriguing title: ‘Sounding the Silence’.
I think I personally have a love/hate relationship with silence.
On the negative side I struggle a little with short periods of silence. I never seem to settle down. Perhaps I need more practise!
On the positive side, I love silent weekend retreats. After the welcome and first shared meal on Friday evening the group goes into a corporate silence until after communion on Sunday morning. As I journey through these few days I actually feel myself ‘calming’ down and becoming more focussed, and I hope, open to God. The lack of a need to talk, even in company with others, I find surprisingly liberating. Come Sunday lunchtime and I’m slightly reluctant to leave the silence – but at least I know I take the fresh perspectives I’ve found within it away with me.
One of my favourite ‘modern’ hymns, by Christopher Idle, puts it like this:
Lord, you sometimes speak in silence
through our loud and noisy day.
We can know and trust you better
when we quietly wait and pray.