Updated: Mar 13, 2020
Until recently, my days were full of noise. I told myself I was trying to learn, trying to be efficient, and trying to squeeze everything I could out of each day. I would listen to a podcast while commuting, watch the news while I cooked dinner, and listen to music while I ran. All good, right?
I had filled my life to the point that the only time there was silence was when my head hit the pillow. I didn’t think twice about this and saw it as a positive until I stumbled on to some teachings that opened my eyes. In To Hell With the Hustle, Jefferson Bethke says, “Noise is an airborne pathogen we are breathing in constantly...our brains are literally exhausted because of the noise.” That resonated with me, especially after going to an elementary school fundraiser in a gymnasium where the music and kids playing combined into such chaotic noise that my head wanted to explode.
I also had heard Mason King ask, “What cultivates your gratitude towards God?” For me, one answer is spending time in nature, in silence. When I see a beautiful sunrise, I thank God for his goodness. When I go for a run, if I can shut off the podcasts or music, I feel like I can hear God clearly. I feel him stirring my soul. However, none of this happens if my mind is distracted by noise.
I realized I had to create space for God to enter in. He is a gentleman. While he can put a blinding light in my path and say, “LISTEN UP,” he instead chooses to speak quietly. This is why silence is so important, I need to shut off all the noise and distractions to hear him. The silence also causes discontent in my own soul to stir, which is probably why I have filled the silence with noise for so long.
Ok, don’t believe me? Let’s give this a try. Open your phone and set a timer for 1 minute. Make sure you are in a relatively quiet place and free of distractions. Sit silently for 1 minute and see what comes to mind.…………………………………
For me, my inner self comes alive in that silence. I think about my day, my emotions, my dreams, and so much more. These are things that get pushed below the surface when I have noise blaring and am running from one thing to the next.
I really like how John Ortberg describes it in Soul Keeper. He describes our outer and inner self. He says your soul integrates your will (intentions), your mind (thoughts and feelings, values and conscience), and your body (face, body language, and actions) into a single life. He notes that we often neglect our inner self (soul) because it is invisible. He says,
“We all have two worlds, an outer world that is visible and public and obvious, and an inner world that may be chaotic and dark or may be gloriously beautiful. In the end, the outer world fades. We are left with the inner world. It is what we will take with us.” --John Ortberg, Soul Keeper
Think about that. Your inner self is what you will be living with...forever! I think it is worth putting some effort into our souls, so let’s get to the practical part. You may ask, "Should I just sit here silently?" Yes...but you will probably need some help. This has been a hard practice for me to pick up so I have tried a few things.
First, I have tried to incorporate silence into a few of my routines, like the first few minutes of my commute or when I go for runs.
Second, I have used the One Minute Pause App by Ransomed Heart. This app is meant to help you stop a few times per day to just reflect. It has amazed me how hard it is to take a one minute or three minute pause in the middle of a normal, chaotic day. When I have done it, it is amazing how God speaks and restores.
Third, I have gone to a cabin in the woods and unplugged for a few days. Now, this is graduate-level silence. In my case, I did this with my men’s group so it wasn’t complete isolation. It was a deliberate attempt unplug and fight back against the attention economy where companies are fighting and monetizing my attention.
I have had to fight for silence, and it has been worth it because it has been the gateway to Sabbath, soul care, and surrendering control. I know I have a long way to go so I hope you will join me on this journey to develop our inner worlds.
Here are a few of the other resources I have found helpful:
One Minute Pause App by Ransomed Heart
The Spiritual Guide by Michael Molinos
To Hell With the Hustle, by Jefferson Bethke
Soul Keeper by John Ortberg
Sermon by Mason King