During my songwriting years, I thought the action happened in the recording sessions and on stage. During my time as a church planter, I thought the action happened in the constant growth and success of the church. And during my stint as a running coach, I thought the action happened with excited athletes and winning teams. Now as I have gotten older, I have come to believe the action is somewhere else entirely—in fact, in the one place I would have never expected:Silence is where the action is. What do I mean?
In a recent men's retreat I led for a church, the closing comments from the participants did not center around the teaching or discussion. They were focused instead on the guided times of silence. The extended space given them to journal, pray, and listen ended up being where they experienced real refreshment and challenge. Something important happened when they sat in the quiet. They were learning that silence is where the action is.
I too have felt the power of silence. A week ago, I was reading the story of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand. As I was meditating, I was struck with my own resistance to Jesus' work in my life. Deep down, I have always tried to manage my redemption and healing, partly because it keeps me in control, but partly because I don't know what it means to trust someone that much with my heart. I was gently confronted with the sin of trying to save myself and the need to let Him heal me in His own way and time. To be exposed and loved that way as a man could only happen in the quiet. I was learning again that silence is where the action is.
Finally, I just finished an article about silence from a molecular biologist. Here the numerous spiritual and emotional benefits of being quiet were detailed. But what caught my surprise was a study of mice included in the article. Each group was exposed to a certain type of noise (white noise, ambient house sounds, classical music, etc.) except for one left in silence. Surprisingly, it was this latter group that experienced the most growth and retention of new neurons in the brain. If this is parallel to our experience as humans, it seems that our brains experience physical transformation in the quiet. Again, silence is where the action is.
But what is it exactly about silence that makes it so compelling? For one thing, you can keep the mask on at work or at home. You can keep the front up with your friends or church community. But you can't bring the false self for long into the silence. At some point, the quiet pierces the posing and your deep longings and pains surface. But there is more. The Bible is the story of God's abiding presence and persistent work on our behalf. When we stop and enter the silence, we become more attuned to how God is present and working in our lives as men, right here, right now. In doing so, our lives unexpectedly become part of the Bible's continuing story. Finally, in the silence we discover that our being is not rooted in activity, a constant temptation we give into as men. It is instead rooted in quiet communion with God. Here we humble ourselves and allow Him to serve us. We are then empowered to go out and serve others.In the end, silence is where the action is because it is where He is. Find a way to enter that silence today—and keep entering it. It is your peace, your strength, your very life.
"The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him" (Hab. 2:20).
Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has served as a pastor, and a high school Bible teacher. Presently, he leads Landmark Journey Ministries as a speaker, small group coach, and author of Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree and Landmarks: Turning Points on Your Journey Toward God. Bill also serves as content editor for Stand Firm, LifeWay's devotional magazine for men. He and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Franklin, TN. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillDelvaux.