But isn’t the whole 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? — The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen (page 43)
There are two assumptions here I want to explore before getting into Nouwen’s practical recommendations.
The first assumption is that our task as disciples of Jesus is to point people toward God and if possible to help people connect with God. Several times in the gospel of John Jesus makes it clear that His goal is to honor and glorify His father. As His disciples, this should be our goal as well. The second part of this assumption is that God is found primarily in silence. Maybe my perspective on this is distorted by the second assumption.
The second assumption is that we are afraid of silence. In silence, we hear only our own voice or the voice of Satan and neither are comforting. Communion would be a perfect time for silence. It could be a time for meditating on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Instead most churches fill it with music, and often with words. Since we haven’t developed the discipline of seeking God in silence, we need words to direct us.
I pray often for God to shout out directions, and I’m always disappointed. Does this come back to the issue of transformation? Is it possible to develop enough mental and spiritual discipline to quiet all the other voices, so I hear only the voice of God?
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 ESV)
Do I delight myself more in God than in anything else? The psalmist promises that if I do then my desire will be fulfilled. I think this is what the desert fathers were seeking. Their solution was to leave everyone and everything that distracts behind and enter the desert. I can’t do that. At least, I think I can’t. I can seek to be transformed. Maybe spending more time in silence doing battle with my thoughts by intentionally seeking God is how that happens.