My father was shipped overseas in 1943 with the Royal Montreal Regiment. On D-day, instead of crossing the channel to the coast of Normandy, he was in hospital - being treated for pneumonia. Because of his illness, he avoided almost certain death since only a handful of the comrades he had lived and trained with for battle, returned. Although he was overseas for only three of his 85 years, his life was deeply impacted in that time. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour each year, you could count on where he would be and what he would be doing. He would be remembering those that gave their lives in service to this country - and observing a minute of silence.
I always found those moments of silence awkward growing up. I understood the grave importance of those sixty seconds - my father had somehow instilled that into our developing characters - but I was never really sure what I should think about. So I would stand there - and let my mind and thoughts enter into a free-fall - vaguely trying to think about and "remember" people who had died I was born. But I found those moments interminably long and the urge to fidget was almost overwhelming.
Silence has never been one of my strong points. If there was ever a lull in a conversation I felt intensely uncomfortable, until the silence was filled with activity or words. It is only of late that I have learned to appreciate, and truly enjoy, the exquisite pleasure of spending time with someone I hold dear and just listening to the clock tick in comfortable silence. However quiet it may seem, though, my mind has always raced - all my life long - with words and pictures and thoughts jumbling, and tumbling and falling over each other like the roaring waters of a roiling white water river. "Quiet time", or daily devotions, for me, has always been quiet on the outside, but on the inside, my thoughts and words and distractions ran almost unchecked - rampant and loud. I tried, but I've just never been very good at "silence" or "quiet", even though I've learned to conform on the outside and make people think I am actually calm- even as on the inside I am coming apart at the seams.
"He leads me beside still waters..." (Psalm 23)
In our Thursday night cell group, we are studying a book/DVD series entitled "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality". A critical part of this study has involved me in learning to regularly practice "silence" for two minutes at a time and several times a day as part of our "Daily Office". It's not a religious exercise, but simply a way of turning our own thoughts and the distractions of the world down, and becoming sensitive to God - setting aside our busy lives for a bit to open our hearts and minds to him. Silence not just on the outside, but the inside, too. You can't be silent before God - at least I can't - without surrendering - your agenda, your thoughts, your worries, your words, your life.
It certainly requires some discipline in order to make myself shut up and just "be", even just for two minutes at a time. But oh, my goodness, I can't believe what's happening to me as a result.
It wasn't easy in the beginning - and there are still distractions which attempt to pull me away from every angle, but as my skill is increasing, I am already beginning to treasure these moments like nothing else, and to value them above everything else in my day. Why? Because it's not about "doing", but about "being" - with Him. It's simply stopping and checking in. It's relationship.
Are all my problems going away? No, of course not. But my ability to rest in the Lord and to lean into his strength in the midst of what life throws at me is increasing exponentially.
It's all about Him...