A word about silence kind of sounds oxymoron? Ya, but in reading the Way of The Heart, by Henri Nouwen, I have been contemplating this chapter on silence for a couple months now. There are a few things that really stand out to me that I have been pondering...
Firstly, the purpose of the 'word'. If the word it to convey an idea, simply a 'candy wrapper' for the real thing, is the idea, philosophy, or even theology being wrapped in those words. On page 49 of his book he quotes Chuang Tzu:
"The purpose of the word is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man with forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to."
Many times, I find myself speaking for the effort of trying to convey a thought, a revelation of the Word, or somehow to express what I see so another can also see, so we two together can relate. Many times, I fail at finding the words to communicate what it is inside me that is unspoken.
Long talks, or 'sharing' of our hearts with one another don't always leave us feeling resolved, but somehow emptied. It was really good for me to hear how the author explained this because it is something I personally struggle with. The Roman educator, Arsenius said it well:
"I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent."
I too, relate here. I feel like I speak too much, and when I do speak what is the fruit? I am simply asking these questions, not bashing myself, but it is good to really ask these questions. I want my words to count and to effectively communicate. So I did a little introspective work on this topic and it was really good for me.
The second part to this, is the purpose of being silent in a 'wordy world'. That is to guard the fire within. Many men and women of God I have looked up to I could say a similar thing about, and that is that they were a person of few and powerful words. You can probably think of a few men and women of God right now that speak plain and bold and you feel rich in spirit in listening to them teach or preach. That is what I am talking about. Words that carry within their container something that you can grab on to and receive.
The life of the spirit within us is fragile, and must be guarded. One of the Desert Fathers says that the "mouth is a door only for exit." This is referring to all that is cultivated in the heart seeping out by the opening of our mouths. I want to give hope, life, revelation, and teaching of God's Word to people, but I don't want to give away everything I have that my fire dwindles to a faint flicker. I am not sure if you can relate, but I am looking for moments in my days that I can steal away for silence.
I have decided to commit my life to daily times of silence as a key to increase the fire in my heart, how about you? Do you take times of silence? Time with the Lord being completely still and silent?
I would love to hear from you on silence!