Hearing God in the Silence

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Heather Trapp -Hearing God in Silence3by Heather Trapp | instagram: real.life.devotions.by.heather

One day, everything was great.
The next day, the bottom fell out.

My well-strategized pastoral career plan hit a wall.  I called my husband, who truly felt bad but had no idea what to say. Then I called my best friend, who graciously listened to me rant. Finally I called my spiritual director.

The third call was a little weird. He had been my spiritual director for four years, but the truth was, I hadn’t seen him in a while. He knows me well, and I knew he totally loved me, warts and all. His suggestions and questions always seemed to hit the mark.

He welcomed me into his office as if we had talked just the day before. I spent several minutes downloading everything that happened.

I feel like my career is over.
What had happened?
Everything lined up.
I checked all the boxes.
It should have been fine.

He graciously listened. Paused. Then asked one question that pinned me back into the comfy, leather chair.

“How’s your spiritual life been?”

Truth was, I had no idea how God and I really were. But I couldn’t say that. This was my spiritual director, for goodness’ sake. How would that look?

“Good! I’m reading FIVE devotions every morning,” I told him. “I am reading the Bible in Greek, and I am translating it. So, that’s good to do.”

Truth was, I WAS doing all of that. The problem was it seemed the more I did, the more I felt disconnected from myself, and from God. He leaned back in his chair, folded his hands in his lap and smiled.

I knew that smile well. I steeled myself.

“Well, perhaps, reading one devotional is enough, hmm? How about spending the rest of that time in silence?”

I’m sure my face spoke volumes. Inside my head, I began to justify why sitting in silence was a bad idea. I like to achieve things. That is my comfort zone. Sitting in silence seemed terribly inefficient.

He smiled encouragingly. “Heather, you are a human BE-ing, not a human DO-ing. Maybe silence and doing less will help?”

The wheels were coming off of my life, and the best advice he had was do nothing and shut up? I nodded and smiled weakly. I was not convinced and I’m pretty sure he knew that.

“Heather, just give it a try. Start small, ok? Just a few minutes each day.”

I left his office, bewildered and uncertain. I promised I would try.

I went at silence like I go at everything: full on. Let’s do this.

Every morning, I “did” silence. Like it was an exercise class or something. I started with five minutes, and determined to get to 30 minutes. I set a timer on my phone to signal my release from this crazy, quiet taskmaster.

Silence felt oppressive.

The more I “did” silence, the more I wanted it to be over. I wanted God to fix the situation. I wanted to tell God what I thought. I wanted to blame someone, point fingers, and defend myself.

Silence challenges the ego.  There’s no justifying, defending, or distracting allowed. It gets in your business, prying into old drawers and hidden nooks and crannies. I was seeing myself in full color. It wasn’t pretty. I got scared. I got mad. I got sad. I wanted to push past the pain and get to the peace part. The more I pushed, the more it hurt.

Silence was winning. I barely got to five minutes each day. I was wrung out; silence was … well, silent. Then, one day, I just quit. The pain had become unbearable. I realized I could no more “do” silence than stop my own heartbeat.

Deep-seated vulnerabilities and fears surfaced. I felt raw and naked. From the deepest part of my soul, I prayed, “Please God, help. I can’t do this alone.”

The answer came swiftly. God’s presence was as real as the oxygen I breathed. God had been there the whole time, patiently waiting, loving me and longing for me to let go. I literally had to break through my need to “do,” “to achieve”, “to prove myself worthy,” “to be good enough.”

The love of God, in the silence, freed me.

Today, my practice of silence remains. Sometimes I forget about silence.  Life gets crazy busy and crazy hard. I lose myself and and I fall into old patterns. I call for help and God welcomes me in like we just hung out yesterday.

God smiles. Oh, I know that smile well.

“Silence maybe?”

______________

Heather TrappHeather Trapp is a blogger, writer, pastor, friend, wife to a great guy and mama to two teenagers. She is passionate about teaching and writing about living real life with real faith.

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  • This is a practice I struggle with as well. We’re word people and there’s something that feels suffocating about not saying words and reading/hearing words — until we realize that silence opens up the space for us to sense God’s presence and realize God is really “the oxygen [we] breathe.”
    Thanks for this wisdom.

    • You’re very welcome. Silence is an ongoing process for me, and I think always will be. That’s the messy wonder of it all.

  • Diane Belz

    Beautiful! I learned the power of silence 10 years ago! Thank you for sharing your struggle and God’s love.

  • Nicole Walters

    Thank you! I know I need silence. I even want it. I read about it (and so identify with the attacking silence like another to-do!) but it hurts so I avoid it. I was just listening to a podcast with Richard Rohr who said the first year of contemplative prayer is horrible. It’s the ego coming out and that raw feeling you talk about. This is another encouragement to press in and stick with it!

    • Amen! Richard Rohr is a favorite for me! Falling Upward was a fantastic book for me. Silence is indeed a process. Progress not perfection 🙂 peace to you!

  • Heather, this post came at exactly the right moment for me. I can’t even articulate my “next steps,” but your words have caused a shift…. Thank you.

    • You are so welcome! I am glad my experience resonates. Peace and courage as you discern your next step :). Please feel free to check out my links for some additional support.

  • Debbie

    Silence is hard. Quieting the mind and letting God in hard. But as you point out-God is there waiting for us. Loved your article.

  • Rachel Lee

    I love this! What a great reminder to quiet ourselves long enough to hear His still, small voice!
    Often hard to do, but SO important! Thank you for sharing!