Breathing in the Silence

young woman in silent prayer
I found myself this morning reflecting on an experience that occurred a few years ago during a Charis retreat. It was a Friday night in March, and I stepped outside the chapel into the cool air during a period of sacred silence. As the doors of the chapel closed behind me, I caught a glimpse again of the 30 young adults who were in total silence and prayer.

The silence came with me as I took a few deep breaths outside. As I did, I noticed the world alive around me. Across our church’s parking lot, a young woman along with her family and friends celebrated her Quinceañera in our main building. The pounding of the music and the laughter of the people inside drifted outside as the doors opened and closed. I breathed in the joy of the moment.

In the near distance, I heard the crack of a baseball bat and the cheering of the fans at the University of Georgia baseball game. I smiled at the cheers, knowing that something good had happened. I breathed in the excitement of the community.

Suddenly, I looked up because of the increasingly loud sounds of a helicopter. The helicopters were flying low and moving quickly with their lights frantically scanning. I breathed in the sadness of their search, for I knew they were looking for a young man who had shot and killed a police officer in our community days earlier.

Turning back to the young adults breathing deeply in the silence and in their time with God, I found myself overcome with the understanding that God was somehow in all of these moments at the same time: God speaking to each young adult uniquely in their silent prayer, God celebrating within the joy of the party, God savoring the experience of community at the baseball game, and somehow, at the same time, God was in the search for the young man, comforting the family and friends of the fallen police officer and comforting the family of the man on the run, and offering wisdom during the decisions of both the man and the officers who sought him.

I was overwhelmed with the clarity that night of God in all things. This night was not unique in the multitude of life’s events of both joy and pain and the fact that God was in all of them. This night was unique because I noticed God’s infinite presence in our lives, and I noticed it because of the gift of silence that night.

Photo by Anitapeppers at Morguefile.com

About Becky Eldredge 104 Articles
Becky Eldredge is a writer and spiritual director in Baton Rouge, LA. The author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, Becky holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans. She has her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College. Becky has been involved in ministry for more than 15 years, with the majority of her work in retreat ministry and adult faith formation. While ministry is one of her passions, her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband, Chris, and her children, Brady, Abby, and Mary.

28 Comments on Breathing in the Silence

  1. Silence is certainly a gift. I’m sure that in the silence of countless retreats that I made at Manresa Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre over the years as a Protestant, the seed was planted and tended for my conversion to the Catholic expression of the Christian faith. Thank you for the reminder of the value of the gift of silence.

      • All credit must go to you and to TS Eliot:

        At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

        Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

        But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

        Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

        Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

        There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

  2. My friends always remarked about the stillness in my home, the quiet, and one winter following the sudden death of my boyfriend in his own home, the silence scared me too. The snow was deep that year, the cold final, unlike the usual mild winter in my part of this vast country. There were no windows open to let in birdsong, no dazzle of sun or warmth of scented evening to chase the silence out as the monochrome of cold and snow and death threatened to swallow me.

    It was years later that I realized that silence for what it truly was, an invitation not a threat, a beckoning not a summons, that I listen and hear the thrum of eternity. I love it now, my peace and quiet. I appreciate it now. It speaks.

    • Linda,

      You so eloquently capture the fear that can come with silence. I think it is the same fear, that at times, can keep us from prayer in the first place. Silence does not mask the inner stirrings within, but makes them feel loud at times. Silence can be jarring.

      Your experience reminded me of the invitation to be diligent in our prayer and in our silence. Because if we truly enter into the silence, we come to the profound understanding you capture, “an invitation not a threat, a beckoning not a summons…I love it now”.

      I love it now, too, even when the silence comes with fear!

      Peace,

      Becky

      • Thank you, Becky,

        It’s my nature to respond with fear somewhere along the way but you know I wrote about that experience from every possible angle and it always came out the same. Even as I sit here now with the symphony of fridge sounds and water in the pipes and the hum of the computer I realize that sound is not stagnant, it moves forward like eternity. Just like we do.

  3. Read this post in the quiet of early morning and thought, how beautiful is this deep silence. God speaks so softly. What grace.

    A big thank you for this lovely sharing.

    • Mary Ann,

      In Georgia, we plant sunflower seeds. I am always amazed that the seeds stay in the soil for weeks before there is any sign of new life. Transformation occurs in the depths of silent earth. From the transformation of that tiny seed, a sunflower grows that once it is done blooming produces thousands of more seeds in its flower head.

      I find there is much to learn about silence from watching plants, like your tulips, grow!

      Peace,

      Becky

  4. I enjoyed this very much. I have two small boys, and so often my “silent moments” feature lots of sounds in the background: the sound of cartoons, my son’s voice narrating a story as he plays with his toy cars, my other son pushing trains around a wooden track. I like how you write about taking the time to identify each sound and hold it in your heart and feel a connection with others. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. So I happened upon this blog this morning as I was just going to check my email before I have my morning “sacred silence”. This is a great reminder of the need to take each moment..and it goes right along with my time yesterday morning where I read about the disciplines following Jesus and Him asking them “what do you want?”….and He told them to come with Him where He was staying…learning to stay with Jesus…moment by moment…
    What is a grace to me is I found this and it was posted over a year ago….God’s timing!

  6. I can so relate. I returned from an 8 day silent Ignatian retreat and I saw God in all things. Now returning home it’s the little things of everyday life and the strangers who smile at me in the supermarket, the beautiful friends that I have been blessed with but it is in the silence when I am drawn closer to God.

  7. When in teen years, I did not understand when mum said we like noisy mornings. She wanted quiet mornings at times during the day. Now, I am an adult, in the morning I prefer silence. What my mum used to say did not make sense back then, but now it sinks very well, even my son knows that we don’t make noise in the morning. We have an hour or two of complete silence. It’s so peaceful and fulfilling.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and how much silence meant to you!!! Lot of good things/messages are missed because of not having silent moments

  8. Silence
    nourishment for my soul
    comfort –
    letting comfort become my strength
    re-ordering chaos
    pondering beauty
    without
    within
    hearing my own gratitude
    noticing wonderment
    and savouring it
    deep rest
    for my heart
    my mind,
    my soul –
    deep deep rest
    pondering love
    wrapping my faith like a blanket of strength around me

    Silence!
    Jesus speaks
    I listen – and hear!

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