God is found in silence
The digital era, where there’s no silence
Increasingly, as my life becomes more connected to cyberspace and social media, I avoid silence and my own thoughts.
More than that, I struggle to simply exist within a space, quietly. Instead, there’s always something going on: upbeat music playing over headphones; a screen in front of me; NPR tuned in while driving.
Over the years, I’ve developed an insatiable desire for distraction. And my attention span has suffered because of that. I can’t even pay attention to a two minute long YouTube video anymore.
Although it’s manifest most notably in the present digital age, this avoidance of silence dates back into childhood, when Pacman and Gubble were the games to play.
Aversion to silence stems from my upbringing. I have seven brothers, all of us were home schooled. We grew up in a very small duplex a stone’s throw from Northampton’s King Street Big Y supermarket. I slept in a room with five others.
“The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14
Thus, there was always something happening in the house; always a crisis, or an argument, or laughter at another’s expense. In short, it was controlled chaos and I, literally, never had time to myself. Everything was shared, and there was always a distraction. Loud was normal, and it still is.
Escapism: an aversion to silence
Now in adult years, living on my own in a small apartment, escapism through technology is how I fill the need for distraction. And when I’m not actively distracting myself, I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, often late for my next meeting.
These days, I binge watch television, turn the fan on at night for ‘white noise,’ and rarely sit quietly with my thoughts. Even now, while typing this, digitized dub-step pounds in my ears through headphones, and I’m staring at a blinking cursor on a Google docs sheet.
That’s because silence scares me.
However, as Pema Chödrön writes in “The Places That Scare You,” silence is a key element in understanding life. For hidden within silence are the answers to some of life’s most profound questions. And most profound of all: God is found in silence, because God speaks when we’re ready to listen.
Seeking silence is Biblical: Jesus practiced intentional silence, escaping to the wilderness, away from the crowds, to pray.
In my own spiritual walk I’ve found it’s when I intimately, deeply, listen to my soul’s heartbeat that I begin to feel the presence of God. Because when I decrease, God increases — from a still small voice whispering behind my distractions, to suddenly an overwhelming presence bending me like a hurricane.