Who or what sets the agenda for your inner thoughts? Is it the media, either electronic or print? On the way to work, do you listen to radio programming that raises your blood pressure? How often do you get alone with your own thoughts?
The Desert Fathers recommended silence as the safest way to find God. From The Sayings of The Desert Fathers, we hear stories about the joys of silence: Abba Arsenius, who had been a wealthy Roman educator before finding God in the Egyptian desert, said, "I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent."
One day Archbishop Theophilus came to the desert to visit Abba Pambo. But Abba Pambo did not speak to him. When the brethren finally said to Pambo, "Father, say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified," he replied: "If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech."
Silence is the place where we can get alone with our own thoughts. Silence is the place where we let God set the agenda for our lives. The Desert Fathers believed that silence has a three-fold benefit. Silence makes us pilgrims. Silence guards the fire within. The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh understood this:
"There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passersby only see wisp of smoke coming through the chimney, and go along their way. Look here, now what must be done? Must one tend the inner fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience for the hour when somebody will come and sit down -- maybe to stay? Let him who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or later." (The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh.)
Finally, silence teaches us to speak, filled with the power of God's silence. If you want other people to really hear what you say, try working periods of silence into your life. This season of Lent is the perfect time for that.
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek