Today’s guest post come from John Smith, who writes about leadership, learning, and human behavior from St. Louis, Missouri in the Heartland of the United States at his blog The Strategic Learner. His post today take a conversational look at the types of silences we find in our lives, and what wisdom we may find in each. So, here’s John on types of silence…
When I saw the thought-provoking questions that Searching Sophia’s Pockets provided to help our creative juices flow on the topic of silence, the very first question in the list stumped me completely:
How do you find silence in your daily life?
After a moment, my brain kicked in with a smart-aleck response:
Which silence do you mean?
Is it the quiet of the world in deep night or early morning as the sun prepares to rise?
This is usually a relaxing silence, in that delicious space between sleep and the start of the day. Of course, nature is not really quiet, anyone raised in the country or who has spent much time there knows that even in the stillness of early morning, a soft blanket of background sounds provides a restful soundtrack.
If it is not that silence, then is it the silence of cowering in the dark of the night, when only the sound of your own breathing intrudes?
This dark-time silences scare me to the limits of my soul. I have been terrified to the core of my being, either through the threat of harm or death to myself or someone I deeply care for several times in my life. I have feared the loss of a relationship and my ability to meet the challenges of living. Yet this silence is made of stuff that wakes you in the middle of the night and does not allow for a return to sleep.
Is it the silence of being with someone when no words could make the moment easier or less hurtful?
This is a painful silence, which I have experienced more often in my life than I like to admit. Sometimes the words just run out and all has been said that can be said. You stare at each other across the gulf of past actions and past words and do not know what to do to make things better or right.
Finally my answer hit me. There are two times when I have experienced the power of silence more than any others:
The silence I have experienced while staring into another’s eyes without talking, and the silence during prayer while I await for God’s response.
The first silence is simple, yet powerful. As part of my counselor training many years ago, we regularly engaged in this brief act. The idea was to help us become comfortable honestly and openly with another person. The phrase we used then was “to be present with the other.”
I found this to be one of the most challenging experiences in which I have ever engaged. Without words to affect or distract us, we would gaze into another’s eyes without speaking for several minutes, although the time felt like hours.
The connection is almost tangible, as we see another human being through what we call the “portal to the soul”.
Then there is the silence during prayer—a silence of waiting for God’s response. This is a different silence, an anticipatory silence, where you have shared yourself with God and await a response.
When I was younger, I saw this as waiting for the answer: “Yes”, “No”, or “We’ll See”, just like I used to lay out logical arguments and wait for my parent to decide.
Now I treat prayer more like a conversation with a trusted friend, where secrets are shared, doubts are spoken aloud, and the other’s felt presence is often all that is needed. The silence enfolds and warms me, because I trust the relationship. Maybe God will answer and maybe not, but I will receive what I need through the silence.
So, which silence does Sophia mean? I suppose it depends on which silence you need in your life…