The Sound of Silence

imagesOk, this one is from 2001, and I'm sharing some older pieces I have written in anticipation of fully embracing my newfound duty as blogging pastor. This one actually brings back fond memories, and I'm sure that Mendocino has cell service now, as does the entire planet, or so it seems. I checked, and they still don't have a Starbucks, but maybe that's a good thing, at least for local businesses. In light of this week's messages on prayer, I hope you find this article about contemplative silence helpful: This week Sharlyn and I were blessed to take a few days off, and to journey to a part of California with which I have heretofore remained relatively unfamiliar. After spending an evening in San Francisco, we made our way 68 miles up Highway 1 to the small coastal town of Bodega Bay. This town, which boasts a population of 950, is best known (if known at all!) as the location of the Alfred Hitchcock film, “The Birds.”  We enjoyed our one-night stay in this laid-back little town, but the next morning journeyed north to an even more remote and interesting location, the quaint Victorian seaside village of Mendocino, which also is home to just under 1,000 inhabitants. We spent two nights in a bed and breakfast inn which was built in the 1880’s. No phone, no television, no radio. No cell phone service. I looked forward to the solitude, the beautiful ocean vistas, the quiet nights, the time alone with my wife. We had a wonderful time. I must confess, however, that we found ourselves in search of things like movie theaters, and there were none. The nearest Starbucks was 3 hours away! We journeyed a few miles north to Ft. Bragg, in search of more “signs of life,” and a cell phone signal. We found the cell phone signal, a nice market, a moderate-sized town, but that’s about it. What I discovered about myself is that, although I crave quiet, solitude, and simpler surroundings, I experience “withdrawal” when I have to exit the daily grind, the phones, the freeways, the noise, the crowds. It really takes me some time to become accustomed to a quieter, simpler lifestyle. I realize, however, that I need more of this solitude, not only for my mental and physical health, but for the health of my soul. But I’m truly of an urban mindset, and as such I find myself sometimes uncomfortable with the sound of silence. Frankly, I feel challenged to more diligently seek quiet space in my life, to not allow myself to remain addicted to the noise, the cacophony of this culture, the static of a world that not only never sleeps but never slows, never listens. I’m challenged to seek to cultivate in my life certain spiritual disciplines, such as silence, solitude, meditation and contemplative prayer. I’m reminded that even within the realm of  Christian endeavor, we can find ourselves inundated with excessive noise and artificial stimulation. I want to become comfortable with the sound of silence. Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, writes: In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things:  noise, hurry, and crowds.  If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied.  Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.” If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture, including our religious culture, we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation.  In their writings, all the masters of meditation beckon us to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit.  Though it may sound strange to modern ears, we should without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer. Consider this quote from the venerable Christian classic, Thomas A Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, written in the 15th century, which has for centuries called believers to a deeper and more intimate walk with Christ:

Anyone, then, who aims to live the inner and spiritual life

must go apart, with Jesus, from the crowd.

My brief vacation this week reminded me of how essential it is for us to routinely seek quietness of the soul amidst the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. I confess that it’s hard for me to sit still for too long. I long for a better grasp of the truth articulated by the Psalmist:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.1