I love silence. I cultivate it, and seek it out. It is the deepest, most rooted part of my prayer life. And if, for whatever reason, I don’t manage to find any space for silence, I quite quickly become grumpy and snappy. It is the still centre to which I return again and again for refreshment.
And yet, my relationship with silence is not without ambivalence. It is also the place in which I have been confronted with the least likeable bits of myself, wrestled with the hardest decisions of my life, and felt something of the bleak emptiness which St John of the Cross described so well as “the dark night of the soul”.
But for all that, indeed perhaps because of all that, silence remains essential to me. It doesn’t need to be long, or deliberate, or focused (although that type of silence has its place). It doesn’t even have to be quiet. When I was in parish youth ministry, I cultivated the habit, especially at this time of year, of taking a moment of silence before each of the many school carol services. And in the process I discovered the truth that silence is more internal than external. However un-silent my surroundings (and there is nothing less silent than a school orhestra tuning up!) I could find that silence within myself. Conversely, of course, it is possible to sit perfectly quietly for minutes or hours without ever really becoming silent inside myself.
So yes, there are many kinds of silence. But I keep turning back again and again to the deep, still silence on which the rest of my noisy, busy, messy life is built. It is always flowing there beneath the surface – I just need to tune in.
This year for #AdventBookClub a group of us are reading “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Rachel Mann. Join us on Facebook or Twitter for daily reflections and discussions. We are also raising money for the Trussell Trust: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/adventbookclub2019.