To label my time with God as a "quiet time" is something slightly ironic. There is nothing quiet about my "quiet time". In fact it is filled to the brim with noisy distractions. My quiet time starts with an entrée of worship music, followed by a main course of Bible digesting, and a long-winded prayer for dessert. Then the meal is over, I've eaten, and I'm full.
I may have just consumed a satisfying meal; yet I never fully shared it with the man at the end of the table. What I mean by this is that I never gave God a chance to speak to me. Yes he may have spoken to me through his word or song. However, I never sat and waited upon him or quietened my thoughts to hear him speak.
I had spent my time with God caught up in a one-way conversation where I spoke and had the final word. I had every element of a meal, but hadn't tasted a minuscule slice of silence.
Lately I have been challenged in areas of my life, church, and generation, where the power of silence has been under-utilised and easily ignored. It wouldn't be ground breaking to make the point that silence is hard to come by. In fact it is an aspect of life that is disappearing at a record speed. Our world is a noisy place that is bombarded with the sounds of cars, our neighbour's cats and annoying ringtones.
Humans have learnt to adapt to the noise as we have developed the skill of multitasking. Skilfully reading maps while listening to the radio and driving. But then is there such thing as multitasking when it comes to listening to God?
An Old Testament story
I love the story of Samuel and how God directly spoke to the young boy. Samuel clearly heard God speak to him as he lay in bed. I imagine in those days it was relatively quiet when one went to sleep. Maybe the sheep made a few noises, but there were definitely no cars, television sets or iPods to keep him awake. Samuel heard God speak and, after double checking with Eli, chose to listen to him.
Notice how God appeared to Samuel when he was still and alone. He wasn't occupied with the day's tasks and he wasn't making a huge effort to seek God. Yet God still chose that moment to talk to him and to challenge him.
The power of silence cannot be underestimated. I am currently half way through a degree in journalism. As part of my course I am obviously required to grasp the ins and outs of a successful interview. I've heard numerous theories on how to coax a story out of someone. The most predominant aspect of these theories is the use of silence.
My lecturer explained this by describing silence as a "slow poison injection". The longer an interviewee is injected with silence, the more they think, over-analyse and hopefully "spill the beans". As I pondered this point it struck me as an adequate explanation of the lack of silence in our lives. Maybe the reason silence is so rare is because it makes us uncomfortable. We would much rather run away then be poisoned with thoughts, that point to truth or aspects of our lives, we would rather not confront.
February 22 this year marked the first anniversary of the devastating Christchurch Earthquake. On this day New Zealand had a minute silence to remember those who lost their lives or loved ones. For that one minute everything stopped. Shopkeepers stood back from serving customers, lectures were paused and vehicles froze. Standing in the middle of the busiest street in central Auckland, I saw everyone stop and reflect. It was surreal.
There were tears, uncomfortable gazes and plenty of coughing. In that one minute an entire country chose to be injected by silence, in order to confront the painful event that had claimed so many lives. Our country chose to use that minute to quietly contemplate the tragedy, just as we should put time aside to solely focus on God and silently seek his solitude.
Silence heightens our anticipation of what is to come. For instance, a comma, when placed correctly indicates a pause, that there is more to come. Silence is all about waiting. Just like the silence of a waiting room or examination.
A Required Silence
Notice the time Jesus spent on the Mount of Olives, away from his disciples, before he was handed over to be killed. It was in that time Jesus sought the Lord for guidance, crying out to him and asking him for help. No one would have been around to distract him and he wouldn't have had his headphones in listening to music. He would have been alone with the sound of his beating heart and quickened breath.
The significance of this moment, before Jesus underwent the most important event in history, should really be a lesson to us. The question I ask myself is whether I am willing to wait on the Lord? Am I willing, like Jesus, to confront and anticipate what is to come?
Perhaps the answer begins in the way I choose to conduct my time with God. Perhaps I should ensure that there is both time to speak and time to listen in my walk with God (Ecclesiastes 3, verse 7).
When I sit down to a meal with God, I want to finish by developing this art with a slice of silence.
Elesha Edmonds is sad to announce the death of her thirteen-year-old pet fish who passed away whilst she was in Europe training to be a foreign correspondent journalist. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to follow @eleshaedmonds on Twitter.
Elesha Edmonds' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/elesha-edmonds.html