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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Escape a Chatty Society to Find Love in the Silence

By Henri Nouwen

One of the main problems is that in this chatty society silence has become a fearful thing. For most people silence creates itchiness and nervousness. Many experience silence not as full and rich, but empty and hollow. For them silence is like a gaping abyss which can swallow them up. As soon as a minister says during a worship service, “Let us be silent for a few moments,” people tend to become restless and preoccupied with only one thought: “When will this be over?” Imposed silence often creates hostility and resentment. Many ministers who have experimented with silence in their services have soon found out that silence can be more demonic than divine and have quickly picked up the signals that we’re saying: “Please keep talking.” It is quite understandable that most forms of ministry avoid silence precisely so as to ward off the anxiety it provokes.

But isn’t the purpose of all ministry to reveal that God is not a God of fear but a God of love? And couldn’t this be accomplished by gently and carefully converting the empty silence into a full silence, the anxious silence into a peaceful silence, and the restless silence into a restful silence, so that in this converted silence a real encounter with the loving Father could take place? What a power our word would have if it could enable people to befriend their silence! (Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, New York: Ballantine Books,1981, pp. 52-53.)
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