Friday, July 24, 2009

Two Minutes of Silence

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...

7 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

In the movie 'Up' I fell in love with Dug, the dog. He has such a 'doggy' character and anyone who has had a dog can identify with that animated pooch. However, dog could be distracted SQUIRREL!! from whatever he was doing because it seem his nature required him to react even when he didn't want to. I identified with him even more because I do the same thing, I try for quiet and spent that time in a fight with my mind, my heart, my emotions, my stomach, my work, my ... well, everything. I too have mastered the look of calm but have never been able to master the practice of calm. You need to share your secrets ... where's the switch?

Belinda said...

Thank you for sharing last night that you raise your hands in welcome, and readiness to receive from God, during those minutes of silence..I'm going to try that this morning. I am surprised at how difficult it is to just be silent, and how long two minutes seems. I usually manage a few seconds before I have to reign my thoughts back to inner silence!

Deidra said...

I like that you talk about silence as a practice. We get better at it as we do it more, and the benefits are so very worth it!

Susan said...

Dave, I loved what you wrote. I have so many squirrels in my life, it isn't even funny. But stay tuned. I'll be writing more about this practice of silence over the next few Fridays...

Belinda, I'm wondering how it went this morning with your hands raised to heaven...

And Deidra, you're right about the practice. Thanks for the encouragement...

Belinda said...

Hi Susan,
Raising my hands helped, at least until they got tired. This morning I was surprised. I estimated two minutes and found I went five, and I wasn't as distracted.

Joanna Mallory said...

Two minutes' silence through the day... what a neat way to refocus. I'm sure I'll find it as challenging as you've said, but I'll give it a try. Thanks for this!

Marilyn said...

Thanks for this, Susan. I've enjoyed Belinda's and now your thoughts on silence as an intentional practice.

Your comment about the clock ticking reminded me of times spent with one or two specific people where we have been comfortable in each other's company, no need for words. Those are special times. I liked being reminded.

The memory of your Dad's silence was very moving. There are some things in life - some losses - for which there are no words big enough, deep enough, sad enough. Silence alone honors the memory.