On September 22, Marcel Marceau, the famous mime, died at the age of 84. Marceau was an expressive artist who could make us believe he was climbing stairs when there were none, and press his hands against a pane of glass that wasn’t there, and lean into a wind that wasn’t blowing.
Marceau’s most poignant work came in his later adulthood. He could trigger a thought by raising an eyebrow; his expressions could take a person thru an entire life-span, from youth thru old age to death.
As I’ve gotten older I find many days when I simply can’t escape from noise and intrusion. A television always seems to be on. In the car if the radio isn’t on it doesn’t feel right. I look around and it seems like everybody is either talking on their cell phone or listening to an iPod. We can’t be quiet. We live in constant noise.
And yet, as most Christians would agree, a real spiritual discipline is silence.
I’ve had gentleman in my church stand up to lead us in prayer and say “let’s have a silent prayer.” The immediate sense of discomfort that comes over much of the congregation is undeniable. How is it that a moment of silent prayer too often becomes an “awkward silence” rather than an event bringing people more fully attuned to God?
It’s hard to be quiet, to refuse distraction, to be reflective and open to the very voice of God. We need more deliberate exercises that muffle the noise, disruption, and intrusion of everyday life.
I have a dear friend who is trying to get his employees to check e-mail just twice each day while avoiding the constant temptation of answering each one immediately. No small task. And since we often bring our Monday thru Friday life into our Sunday life, we may even find it hard to turn off cell phones during a worship service.
Is it really any wonder in our noisy world, with so many things clamoring for our attention, that we find it hard to study, or pray-or even look at sites like Crosswalk.com for inspiration? We get busy. Busy with lots of “stuff.” The hard question to ask is, “How much of this stuff is really worthy of our attention?”
I have a sense of why silence is so difficult for contemporary Americans. Silence is a humbling thing for the powerful personality on this earth. Silence can bring reality into focus and force us to face the biggest issues in the universe like God, man, sin, death and salvation. Silence grants us the opportunity to remember where real power resides and how there really is only One voice to be heard and heeded in this world. As Francis Schaeffer reminded us, God is not silent.
But are we listening?
What I am about to propose probably sounds crazy coming from someone who works for a company that operates radio stations throughout the country. But I want to challenge you. Today, drive home from work with the radio off. Reflect on the presence of God and be specific and grateful for something right now. Before you go to sleep tonight or when you get up tomorrow, focus on the Lord not on the day ahead. Pull out a favorite passage of Scripture and meditate on its truth. For example, consider Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
In a world of constant noise, we would do well to practice the virtue of silence-to listen and hear the life-giving words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
John Young is host of “The John Young Show” heard on WNIV in Atlanta.