What do you do with silence?
I've been experiencing silence. With the kids all in school, I have a few hours (+/-) of time home alone. The house is quiet. Dead. Lifeless. Silent. And sometimes, I don't know what to do with that. I mean, I have plenty on my "to do" list, but the eeriness of the home is a bit unnerving for me.
Similarly, I am also coming out of a period of spiritual silence. For the past two years God has seemed pretty unreachable and distant. Assuming I'm not the only one, I think we all have times in our lives when we truly feel the weight that comes with traveling through the wilderness alone; we wonder if God is really listening or hearing our pleas. Direction seems aimless. Purpose is in question. Life is, well, lifeless.
So I ask again, what do you do with silence? I personally do not handle it very well! But I am learning. Slowly. Piece by piece I am learning what to do and how to cope with silence in my life.
We often talk about scripture heroes in such a light that they seem perfect. They get answers to their prayers immediately, they trust in the Lord perfectly, and they perform miracles. Sometimes we can look at these great men and women and think, "If only I were like...." Well, guess what. We are!
Nephi, Moses, Abraham, Enoch, the Brother of Jared, Elijah, Thomas, Peter, Mary, Martha...All of these great prophets and women had moments in their lives when they truly felt silence in their lives.
In 1 Kings 18:1 we read about Elijah's great miracle of ending the drought by calling forth the rains. Well, we don't highlight that it took 3 1/2 years of drought before the miracle could be accomplished. How many other times did Elijah pray in that time before the one that actually brought the rain? I don't know, but I can't imagine he just said, "Okay. Let's just wait for several years and then I'll see what I can do."
There is great value in silence. So what do we do with it?
Here is what I've been thinking:
Sit. Be Still.
"Be still and know that I am God," is what we have been counseled. So why does silence unnerve me? In my daily silence, I am striving to take just a moment to sit with the Lord. After I send David off to school, I get my cup of cocoa (it's turning chilly here already), get in a comfortable position on my couch, close my eyes and just sit. Wait. Ponder. Pray. Think.
Though I don't think this verse literally means we must constantly "be still," I do feel there is much goodness that can come from literally following this direction. Spending a moment with the Lord can only strengthen that most tender relationship in our lives. When we are feeling silence from God, maybe it's because we are not allowing ourselves to be silent for (and with) Him.
"Staying connected with God gives our work, our recreation, our relationships, and all our daily rituals new meaning." - Wendy Ulrich, Let God Love You, p. 155
Deprivation Draws out Desire.
When does water taste the best?
When does sleep sound so good?
When does a paycheck bring the greatest peace?
When does a friend feel the most welcome?
Most of the time, we find the greatest joy when we are deprived from the thing we later receive. When God seems silent, the joy and peace that come from feeling Him again in our lives is so much more joyous; it is cherished more. We all remember the story of Alma the Younger. Though he had been the one to separate himself from God through rebellion in this instance, he still proclaims, "Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yeah, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding was my pain (Alma 36:20)." When we lack something, it stretches us to seek for what we truly desire.
Time to Change
Oftentimes there is silence because, like Alma, we have made choices to distance ourselves from God. When we feel this silence keenly, we can take inventory of our lives and see where we went wrong, where we need to repent and change.
Other times this silence doesn't come because we've been disobedient or rebellious, it simply feels silent because we are meant to traverse this mortal journey and "wait for a little season... that [we] may be taught more perfectly, and have experience (D&C 105:9-10)." This same waiting period is still a chance for us to evaluate our lives and see where changes can be made that will close the gap between God and ourselves.
Wendy Ulrich makes this beautiful statement on the subject:
"[This silence] may be simply that God is inviting us into a deeply intimate relationship with Him, and that this kind of closeness requires us to change not only our behavior but also some
of our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life. What kind of change does such
closeness require? ...The kind of change that comes from facing deep disappointments and
finding a way to move forward with hope (Let God Love You, p. 6)."
I guess it's been nice to have this stretching and waiting period in my life so I can search more deeply to see the hand of God in my life. Because guess what? It is always there! Even amidst the fog I caught glimpses of His love and light in my life. Though I had to work a little harder to see it (and even want it), His light was there.
There is no easy answer to this perplexing part of mortality, but it is helpful to know that even the moments of silence are part of God's plan for His children. It is His goal to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man. He wants us to come home. Sometimes (lots of times!) the road leading there is going to be rough. Knowing that makes it a little easier to traverse.
* * * * * *
"Intimacy with God is not just found in the intensity of honeymoons and power struggles; sometimes the only way we can prepare for new levels of intimacy is by just driving down that long, empty road." - Wendy Ulrich, p. 41