Silence and Contemplative Listening
Last week at The Awakening Institute we began to contact local church pastors and leaders, offering to bring to their congregations a 2 ½ hour experience titled “Introduction to Christian Spiritual Direction”, defined as .. Two persons, in Christ, one helping the other to sit and to “be” in the Lord’s presence; open, non-defensive, and in the moment; being awakened to the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, so as to hear, listen, and be responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus seeking to be fully alive and basking in the light of Jesus Christ.
If you, or anyone you know, may like to hold this event at your location, please contact me, Gene Yotka, at email@example.com, or call 321-298-8801.
Last week we began to consider aspects of our “Worship and Word” experience (which now, beginning this week, Feb. 13th at 6:30, will be broadcast on Facebook Live). This experience begins with contemplative worship, leading to Centering Prayer, followed by silence, spiritual reading of the Scriptures, an in-depth immersive study of the Scriptures, and then closing with prayer of quiet.
This week, we will consider an aspect of “Silence”, often referred to as “Holy, or Contemplative, Listening”1, as part of our series on spiritual disciplines, practices, and holy habits.
Now, as always, I pray that you may take a moment to know God’s presence with you, at this very moment. Now is a good time to be still for a few moments and let God speak to your heart.
Silence, for many, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. I have a good friend who was telling me the other day that Silence is just not part of their spiritual disciplines, because they just can’t seem to sit quietly for any length of time. Then he went on to tell me of his deep desire to know God better, to hear God more clearly and to respond to God’s direction in his life. He further told me about his ministry to his family and his desire to help the poor. I asked him, where do you suppose those deep desires come from? He said, “I believe they come from God.” I suggested that although he had difficulty with outward silence, that inwardly he has become quite silent, and thus heard God voice more clearly than he realized. I asked him, “Could it be that his devotion to searching God’s word, his gift of giving and his moment by moment search for God in his life has created an inner silence that is open to God’s voice in a most remarkable way?”
I share to the above instance because too many of us think that the silence that Elijah knew on Mount Horeb, when he heard God’s voice in the shear silence (1 Kings 19:11-13) is something that we must try to acquire in such a manner that we consciously know that we have experienced Silence. In other words, do we have to realize the experience of Silence for Silence to have actually occurred in our lives? The truth, for me, has been the more I try to achieve Silence as an experience, as something I try to make happen, the less likely it is that we will know the way of being inwardly still, in manner, by which I can know God more intimately and hear God’s voice more clearly.
The truth is that every person, centered “in Christ Jesus”, has an inwardly silent core that can draw us closer to the Lord, who is within us. The more we attend to the movement of God, who is present in us, the more we become affected by the Silence that draws us closer. The shear silence in which God’s voice is heard cannot be grasped it can only be received and realized. To understand this better let us consider the following aspects of this silence.
Silence, which comes by way of a heart centered in and on Christ Jesus, effectively draws us to a deeper awareness of God’s presence, enhancing our ability to hear and listen to God’s voice.
Silence is a way of being that, by God’s grace, creates liminal space in which we can be drawn to rest in the presence of God, in whom we discover that we live breathe and have our being. When this occurs we realize we have come close to the center of all things in the One in whom all things are gathered and interconnected. This One, is Jesus Christ. However, we cannot by our own effort grasp for or cling to Silence. In fact, we cannot even be conscious of Silence, and we would not what to even if we could. For it is not an awareness of Silence we seek, but an awareness of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), to who Silence is drawing us. This is because, Silence is not an experience. Silence is a way of being, made possible by God’s grace that draws us close to the God in whom all experience is saturated in love, thus is Truth. Silence thus is no thing that draws us to the One who is all at all.
Silence offers to us a passive, restful way of listening in which we can hear God’s voice and respond to God’s direction in an active manner. Silence is a way of being that draws us closer to God, so close that we can hear the voice of the One whose likeness we identify with and desire to carry outwardly into the world.
Silence is not as elusive as generally believed. Silence, to be effective simply requires letting go of our clinging and grasping ways, and faithfully surrendering to God who is Love. Silence surrounds our every thought, every word, and every action. If we allow this in-between Silence to draw us close to God, we will find ourselves resting in God, who by grace will allow all our thoughts, actions, and words to flow out of the inwardly still center of God in us.
Too often we simply try too hard. We implement too many ways, too much thought, and too much of our own effort, while all along God in the silence of our being in Christ Jesus, is telling us to rest and be drawn, no striving or grasping, just self-emptying that draws us to Almighty God, who fills us fully.
We do not enter silence by any reaction or reactivity of our own. On the contrary we enter into silence by becoming purely receptive, so as to be drawn close to God, who is at the center of all things, and connected to all things. In this we become centered in God who we love, hear God’s voice, begin to sense the interconnectedness of all creation and to love all creation as God loves all creation. This is the great commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).
In silence we are drawn away from the dissonant chaotic noise all around us and drawn to the perfect shalom, balance and harmony of God.
We cannot try to understand, or even know anything about silence, for in so doing we just create noise. Silence therefore is utter trust and faith in God, in which we allow ourselves to unknow all the chaos, and to rest in the inner, still, silent, knowing of the peace, joy, and love of God. As we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Silence is effective in our lives in a deeper more profound manner every time we become more immersed in the reality of God with us, and responsive to Jesus Christ’s calling to follow him.
May God Bless You All, Gene Yotka
1 The Awakening Institute is offering a 3 hour seminar/workshop “Introduction to Holy Silence and Contemplative Listening. For details please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 321-298-8801
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