I’m in the middle of an eight-week small group Bible study at my church. Our ministers asked a group of people to participate and go through this sort of training period, so that when they open small groups up to the congregation next fall, we will be the small group leaders. I’m super excited about it. I love small groups when it comes to spiritual reflection. I think I get more out of a group of 6-10 people than I do in any other form of worship.
The method of studying the Bible that we are learning is actually a monastic style of study. It is based on principles of worship and reflection that monks have used for hundreds of years. I love the ideas behind the practice, but, to be honest, it feels pretty foreign to me at this point. We have been talking a lot about being versus doing in our faith, and we’ve concluded as a small group that it is much easier to DO than it is to BE. To do gives you tasks and things to accomplish. Tangible boxes to check and a sense of accomplishment when you finish. Often, doing is led by others – a minister giving a sermon, an author writing a book, a small group leader directing the discussion. But to BE is very different. To be is to simply be in God’s presence. To not ask for anything, to not give anything, to not focus on anything other than being in his presence and listening.
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot lately about being and about listening. As a pretty outgoing person, I tend to talk a lot. I’m always telling stories or sharing my point of view. As a blogger, my world revolves around my experiences and my challenges and my struggles. If you were to put a label on me, you could call me noisy. But lately, there have been huge indications that perhaps it is time that I listened for a while. For one thing, this Bible study came right as I was pondering this issue for myself. How strange (or divine?) that I would be thinking about this topic myself and then suddenly my small group at church is discussing it. For another, I’ve been doing some writing on the side other than for this blog, and I just finished an article about silence last week that was not really related to my small group discussion, but ended up being exactly what our discussion was about last night. I may be a little skeptical of burning bushes, but I know enough to recognize when God is trying to get my attention.
Message received, Lord.
But my thoughts about silence and listening have actually gone beyond my faith. I think these might be principles that could serve anyone of any belief system. The idea that sometimes we need to BE, instead of DO. That sometimes we need to put it all down for a while – the phones, the tablets, the television, the jobs, and even the spouses and the children – and just be still. For me, that might mean be still and know God more fully, but for others that might mean to be still and reconnect to ourselves, or hear the heartbeat of the universe around us. For some it might mean to be still and clear our mind of clutter, doubts, fears, and anxieties. And for others still, it might mean to be still and simply sit in peace. Whatever it is that you hear, I’m pretty sure there are some things that we only hear in the silence.
A big focus for me in the past few weeks has been to be still and listen in my marriage. Chris is such a laid back, gentle person, and it is usually me who drives our communication. Normally, that’s not a bad thing. Someone has to get us talking, and that task just usually falls on me. I don’t mind because Chris always talks back. He’s just generally not going to be the first one to bring it up. But lately as I have sat in silence and thought about the importance of silence, I have wondered if maybe that’s not true. Maybe Chris would bring things up. Maybe he would speak first more, if only I was quiet enough to let him have a chance. Maybe it’s not that he’s quiet. Maybe it’s just that it takes him longer to prepare what he wants to say.
I’ve focused this week, especially, on being quiet in my marriage. On listening. On asking questions about Chris and his day-to-day life. I make sure to listen when he speaks, even if what he is saying seems small. I heard someone caution one time that small does not mean insignificant, and I need to remember that when my husband speaks.
I’m working on finding silence in my life right now. I’m learning how to quiet my head and listen with my heart, to both God and my husband. Perhaps it was no coincidence that God gave us one mouth, but two ears. It’s probably time I learned to use them.