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When was the last time you sat in silence?
Where were you? In the woods, in a church or perhaps in your living room? Daily, we are encouraged to plug into everything around us so we don’t miss anything. Ironically, we are missing out because of plugging in. A common sight on college campuses is a group of friends, sitting together yet busy texting others and ignoring the people around them. Professors have no texting policies to get students to pay attention to the lectures taking place right in front of them. Many parishes announce before worship begins to silence cell phones. We live in a time in history that is running from silence. When we plug in, are we silencing God?
I love to pray with music (from classical to contemporary Catholic) and I know I also need silence to hear the inner stirrings of my heart. Music can be both a pathway to prayer and, when I use it to avoid silence and contemplation, a roadblock. Silence brings a second gift of stillness that is not present when I am immersed in the melody of my favorite tunes.
Creating intentional time for silence and stillness becomes a gateway for contemplation. It takes commitment and energy to allow stillness to seep in. Seeking silence requires moving past fidgeting body movements, racing thoughts about work and family and even letting go of the background noises of ticking clocks and air whooshing through vents.
Investing time in relationship with God without expectation of immediate results is countercultural. A relationship based on devotion of time can transform you from a consumer of prayer, only as needed, to a companion—from passive to active in your eternal relationship. Silence may help you hear a deeper answer rather than provide a quick fix. I want answers to my prayers and requests fast and as I continue to learn sometimes the waiting, even when painful and stressful, eventually opens me to a deeper level of trust in my relationship with God.
In reflecting on silence and stillness the Gospel of Matthew 7:13-14 came to my heart. It is the teaching about the narrow gate. I remember learning in my graduate theology courses that Gospel stories are living stories. They serve as timeless portals and allow each of us to continue to learn even thousands of years after they were written. These verses in Matthew remind us how to make daily choices that lead us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Biblical scholars and homilists have helped shape my understanding of such a profound passage. Each time I hear this piece of Scripture I am in a different part of my life journey and something new is revealed.
Today, I am sitting with the core of Jesus’s message. The narrow way is not the easy way. Unplugging in our American culture takes courage. Perhaps in this context of reflection taking the earbuds out of our ear canals—narrow gateways—will allow God’s call to pass through. Seeking silence and stillness to widen the narrow gateways of your discernment makes room to spread out, to sink deeper into your heart. Choosing to make time in your busy life to unplug the phones, mobile devices and other distractions will help you to plug into God.
How do you create time of silence and stillness?
Are you willing to plug into God and listen for guidance in your discernment?
Will you risk moving through the narrow gateways of your ears and heart?