Archive for February, 2012

Many years ago, I accompanied my wife to a spiritual retreat at the Dominican Reflection Center in Woodway. It was a day to take a break from the busyness of life, to be still, to listen for God.

My wife loved it. I could not wait for it to end.

Thinking back, I realize it wasn’t the solitude that got to me. Nor was it the physical stillness. It was the silence. It was deafening, overwhelming, even intimidating. And, to be honest, I don’t think I am that different today. Why?

Part of the answer resides in my tendencies as a media junkie — then as a newspaper editor, now as someone who teaches college students about media. But that answer alone does not seem sufficient.

When I reflect on the pace of life, it is not just that things are too frantic (though that is problem enough). Our hectic lives are also loud. There is already clatter aplenty as we navigate our daily chores. Then we add to it our own soundtrack — via Ipods, radios, smart phones, computers and TV.

To a degree, that soundtrack helps us navigate the day. It can provide small moments of delight and comfort. It also can insulate and isolate. When I put on my Ipod ear buds, I am shutting out other sounds that compete for my attention.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum; silence can feel like an emotional vacuum, something to be avoided. I get so used to having a soundtrack that when it disappears it feels like a void. All those years ago, at that spiritual retreat, it was that void that left me so eager to end the day.

In silence, we can to allow God a space to enter our thoughts, our hearts. That ought to be comforting, but it also can be frightening. Perhaps we are afraid that in silence, with distraction stripped away, we will hear only the sounds of brokenness in our lives.

But perhaps, if we listen just a bit harder, we might just hear the still-small voice of God’s grace telling us to put our fears aside.

Note: This post also appears at my church’s blog, Calvin Voices.

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