For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. –Psalm 62:5-7
“Anyone who loves words will tend to let themselves be satisfied by them, and as a result stop short of true satisfaction. For true satisfaction…comes when I am silent and listen…. When God’s voice is drowned out by incessant clamor, whether inner or outer, in whatever shape or form, then continuous dialogue with God becomes impossible.” — Esther de Waal, from A Life-Giving Way
I came across these words of Anglican spiritual writer Esther de Waal today and had to pause to think long and hard about them. You see, I am a lover of words. For all of my adult life my vocation has, in some way, been connected to the world of words. As writer, English teacher, pastor, public relations and university advancement professional, everything has in some way dealt with the power of words–both spoken and written. And yes, I find words satisfying. I labor over the right words, the proper shade of meaning, the order and style of the words on the page.
Our culture is changing and so is the way we use words. Images have more power, in many cases, than words. Tweets and texts morph the language from a thing of beauty and an art to a utilitarian tool. No wasted letters–much less wasted words–are needed. Yet despite the way our use of words is changing, we still fill the void with words and noise. We have little tolerance for silence, rushing to fill empty space with sound.
I see this tendency in worship, where the congregation often seems uncomfortable if the pace is deliberately slowed to allow time for silent space and thought. Several times I have tried a silence exercise with confirmation classes or youth group, challenging them to be silent for just one minute. Almost without fail giggles will erupt before 60 seconds have passed.
Even in my own daily meditation and prayer time I often do battle with the words that crowd my mind and clamor for attention. Simply being present in the moment and listening for GOD is hard work; it takes a deliberate effort for me to be present in the moment, to let go long enough to simply be still and wait on the LORD. Ah, yes, my soul may desire to wait in silence, but my mind is too much with this world and its cares and busyness.
Today I am thankful for de Waal’s words of wisdom. Tomorrow I will try again to leave my words behind and, as the psalmist says, to let my soul wait in silence for the One who gives me hope.
Light your candle and let go of your words. Yes, that is easier said than done! Nonetheless, try to gently send all thoughts away for just a short while–10 minutes perhaps. Be still. Breathe. Wait in silence for the Divine Presence, your rock and salvation. Allow GOD to enter the conversation.