Silence. It’s not something you hear much of these days.
It seems that daily we fill our lives with constant noise and activity. Much of the Western world stops on this day each year on the eleventh month and day at the eleventh hour to silently and respectfully remember those who have sacrificed for our freedom, but I imagine those moments of silence make a lot of us pretty restless.
In Canada, Veteran’s Day or Remembrance Day is widely recognized. I have subsequently been to a number of school assemblies where the staff and students and parents have stopped in silence to remember.
One can feel the restlessness in the crowd as that two minutes probably feels like it’s the longest two minutes of their lives. Why? I think it’s because we aren’t good at being silent. We feel more comfortable filling our lives and our days with the noise of all the things we like to do to please ourselves.
It makes me think of a passage in Habakkuk 2:18-20, “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Through Habakkuk the prophet, God speaks of the utter silliness of worshiping an idol made by our own hands that doesn’t even have breath in it. Yet what do we do every day but bow down to lifeless things in order to make ourselves the centre of the universe? It’s all about my schedule and my relationships and my downtime. The phrase “me time” has even become household language and paramount to a right in our culture.
These things are dead—all those idols that contribute to the noise around us drown out the still small voice of God Who calls us to be set apart—holy, as He is holy (I Peter 1:15 & 16). He is calling us to be silent before Him. Habakkuk 2:20 literally says, “hush before Him, all the earth”.
It is only then that we can truly hear the Voice that matters. Does this mean that we join the monks, take a vow of silence and poverty, and hide away from the world? Many have tried it. Does that make us any more Christlike? Maybe, maybe not. We can be silent and not be silent before Him.
Instead of worshiping the lesser gods who clamor for our affections, time, and thoughts, we must find the true prayer of silence. That can only come from a heart that desires to humble oneself deep in one’s spirit continually before the true God.
I love how this ancient chant expresses the thoughts of the final verse in that passage:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly-minded
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ, our God, to earth descending,
our full homage to demand.
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