Today I was taking the train home from work, a different route to normal due to the tube strike in London, and obviously therefore much busier than normal. I didn't have my i-pod on for once and I had the most bizarre - and undeniably profound - experiences I've had. I was literally squashed like a sardine with lots of people on the train, standing room only.
But almost all of them were talking.
There was a bunch of school friends all talking over each other, a few work colleagues or friends chatting away and others talking on the phone. It was almost like I was the only silent person on the train. It was genuinely bizarre.
But I've been studying a lot about The Sabbath recently, and about the art of creating space in time to rest and disconnect. On Saturday I went on a pilgramage to a monastic community and spent time in pure quiet, in a prayer garden so quiet and distant from the rest of the world you could literally hear the silence.
Maybe it was because these things have been on my mind recently, but I couldn't help just how much noise there was - how many people talking,
over and to each other,
on the phone,
all busy with their own lives.
All full of adrenaline from the busyness of life.
I couldn't help but feel pity. I kept thinking to myself, "Is this what our lives have been reduced to? Just everyone wanting their say all the time, scared of disconnecting, addicted to the adrenaline rush of life?"
and above all,
scared of the silence of their souls.
Scared to stop, to rest, to disconnect. Scared to be silent.
Because they are afraid in the silence that no one will be listening, no one will be there, that they will be all alone and have no value. That they might not like what happens when they are forced to examine and listen to their own souls. Or listen to God. The culture we live in tells us that we are machines, that we need to be on the go 24/7 and keep working to achieve more - money, status, success, and that if we stop then we might miss out on something. It tells us we need more and that status and success is what matters, that what we look like matters, and that our value is tied up in all these things. Our value in life is defined by how busy we are - with both work and socially. So we spend a lot of time, energy and money building up that life for ourselves.
In the midst of that, there's no time for silence.
People become scared to stop, because they are scared of what's inside them.
Scared of being alone.
Afraid to face their insecurities and fears. Maybe they have nowhere to go with them.
If you don't know God, silence can be a very lonely and scary place, where your mind can get the better of you given enough time. That's probably why mental health issues are on the rise, why more people see counsellors and suffer from depression than ever before. People simply can't deal with what's going inside of them. However this fear of silence isn't limited to non-Christians, in my experience Christians are just as much afraid of silence as non-Christians - but for different reasons.
For example, I know I can be scared of silence. But its because I can get scared of what God might have to say to me, that it might be something I don't like, something uncomfortable.
But I am learning that silence is one of the most important disciplines we can have in our lives.
We need it.
We can't live without it.
It allows us to examine ourselves, bring those things before a loving heavenly father and allow Him to speak truth and love into those things.
God is in the silence.
Nobody has to have any fear of silence, if they know God. God speaks into the silence, He tells us what we need to hear, He tells us the truth. He gives us love, strength and peace. He reminds us that the world can go on without us, but above all He reminds of something that we all need to hear...
...that we are not alone, and that we are loved and accepted just as we are.
Without status, money or achievement.
We are loved.
Are you afraid of the silence? Are you always too busy for silence? Do you find yourself so busy you have no time for God to speak to you, no time to disconnect?
I want to encourage you. Challenge you even.
Take some time. Make some time in your life for silence, and in that time, ask God to speak to you. Ask God to speak to you through and in the silence, and bring to Him all the things you don't want anyone else to see, fears, doubts, insecurities. Allow Him to speak His truth and love into your life.
Be still. Be silent.
And know that He is God.