Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Sound of Silence

"Ultimate peace is silent through the density of life,"

-C. S. Lewis

What is the sound of one hand clapping? The "sound of silence" comes to mind–one answer to this ancient koan.

Silence, I've come to believe, is the answer to many of life's contradictions. I'm learning to say less these days. It was Jesus' way. In the face of severe provocation he was "silent and did not reply" (Mark 14:61). Jesus could have answered his critics, but, "like a sheep before its shearers is silent, He did not open his mouth," as one of the prophets said.

There is awesome power in silence, especially in those overwhelmingly bad situations in which we are subject to harsh words from those we greatly love. There, silence is most difficult for loved ones have the greatest power to wound us. But there it is most essential, for we owe our own homes the greatest measure of gentleness and forbearance.

Silence forestalls angry reactions and bitter words that we may later regret and others may never forget. Silence gives us time to slow our thoughts and reorder them, perhaps to remind ourselves that the one who wounded us is weary, or worried and otherwise out of sorts. Or we may quickly forgive for they may not know what they're doing. We should always forgive anything the moment there is anything to forgive for there is no better time.

Silence is a means by which we may help others see themselves, for their voices reverberate in the quietness we offer, and in it they may hear their unkind words and regret them. When we step aside and wait in stillness, we give God an opportunity to work through us. When we take up our own cause we may frustrate his ultimate intention to use us to bring spiritual healing and health to others.

Silence can be the gentle answer that turns away anger. Defensive reactions make things worse: they "stir up wrath"(Proverbs 15:1). Restraint and silence relieve tension and restore peace. When we thus "make peace," we "sow a seed whose fruit is righteousness"(James 3:18). Others begin to grow toward goodness through our example.

Finally, calm, unruffled silence is an eloquent and gracious reflection of God's unconditional love. Clement, a first century Christian, wrote, "Let (those who belong to Christ) demonstrate by silence the gentleness of their tongue; (thus) let them show His love" (1 Clement 21:7).

And so we pray for a silence that "swallows up the waves of wrong and never throws them back to swell the commotion of the angry sea from whence they came" (George MacDonald). Oh, for grace to annihilate wrong in this way. 

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