Not synonyms, although there is quite a bit of overlap to their meanings. I am finding that not-talking is not the same as quiet, and that silence is no guarantee of stillness.
I come from a rich tradition of words – beautifully crafted, mentally stimulating, deeply expressive words. Words to explain, to clarify, to enlighten, but also words to shape, to influence, to steer. Sometimes words that obscure, words that camouflage, words that sanitize. And when the evangelical movement is having a bad week, its strength is its weakness, and this facility with words becomes weaponized – barbs and rebuttals and shotgun blasts of language that leave gaping holes in targets and observers alike.
Let me be clear – I don’t want to cut myself off from this tradition. As long as I have mental capacity and breath in my body, that breath will be voiced in words that make sense. I simply am not wired for “God is good, God is great, Hallelujah (repeat 47 times)” – I am wired for words.
I think, though, that I might do well to take a cue from my musical life, where the rests are nearly as important as the notes. If there is no silence, the notes quickly become a barrage of noise. The quiet passages are necessary for the loud ones to be appreciated, and the softer melodies have beauty all their own.
I need this quiet. I have come from so many years of noise – church services where I am cowed into unresponsiveness because of the deliberately constant noise. (God forbid there be “dead air” on a Sunday morning.) My “quiet times”, not too surprisingly, have come to reflect this constant motion, and my prayers and reading are so full of words that there is no space left for listening.
I want to find out what is in the silences, and perhaps more importantly, what is not. I need stillness more than I need words sometimes. Now if only I can get myself to stop talking…