The gift of Silence

At a teacher training event last week, we explored a few ways to work with silence as part of a strategy for teaching students (and the teachers themselves) to care for their souls.

We started with an Quaker-style prayer that began with a short silence (10-15 seconds by my rough mental count) and then finished with a spoken prayer. Several of the teachers there had experienced similar ways to pray, but about half hadn't. For most of the group, the time between "Let's pray" and my beginning to pray out loud was uncomfortable. Even though it was a short period of time, it felt much longer and silent-er.

In classrooms, school teachers are learning to wait to call on a child to answer a question; the first hand up might still be called on first, but not until there are several other hands in the air too. This gives the class more time to puzzle out the answer, and lets children who work at a slower pace become more confident as they realize that being first to answer isn't the goal.

Silence is hard to get. From the alarm clock in the morning to the MP3 player during the rest of the day to the late night shows before bed, we tend to surround ourselves with sound. Even in a church service, most of the time is taken up with words and music; for my highly-ordered Episcopalians, an unexplained silence would be interpreted as a gap (for most of the congregation, anyway) and not a gift.

When Elijah heard God, 1 Kings 19 points out, "The Lord was not in the wind...the earthquake... [or] in the fire." Instead, God made Himself known in a still, small voice. One thing I point out to kids fairly often is that it isn't that when we start listening, God starts speaking; it's that God has been speaking all along, and when we learn to enjoy silence, we can begin to hear Him.

1 comment:

erin said...

when i'm in prayer unloading all the events of the day and all of the needs that i'm aware of and all of the things i am thankful for...i used to wonder why i didn't hear God speaking clearly. the Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and certainly won't interrupt me. now those quite times before Him are some of the greatest.

good post Isaac, and thanks for the reminder.