“Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.” -Dallas Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”
Solitude is the practice of being absent from other people and other things so that you can be present with God. In solitude, we rest from our attempts to re-create the world in our image. We rest from arranging our relationships and manipulating people with our words. In solitude, we say to God, “I am here to be changed into whatever you like.” In solitude, we learn to “wait on the Lord.”
Silence is the practice of quieting every voice, including your own inner and outer voices. It is written of one of the Desert Fathers, Abbot Agatho, “that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.” A rather extreme measure, but it demonstrates how difficult it is for us to be silent.
Silence is also necessary to free ourselves from our tendency to control. Silence frees us from the tyranny we hold over others with our words. Thomas Merton wrote, “It is not speaking that breaks our silence, but the anxiety to be heard.” When we are silent, it is much more difficult to manipulate and control the people and circumstances around us. Words are the weapons we lay down when we practice silence. We give up our insistence of being heard and obeyed. Silence forces us to surrender to the will of Another.
“more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning”
Lord, I am waiting in silence, longing to hear your voice.