Enjoy the Silence


NOTE: I get how pretentious this post is going to seem – especially since I don’t have a gazillion followers who may be worried about why I’m not posting. I understand. I thought maybe some would find a little value in working through the same issue.

Years ago, I read a book called The Sacred Echo by Margaret Feinberg. In it, Margaret (I had lunch with her one, single, solitary time so we are totally on a first-name basis) describes how God echoes when he wants to get our attention. A friend might mention something that makes you pause. Then the same concept comes up in a sermon. Then, you catch it again in the lyrics of a song.

Or sometimes you see three internet posts in the span of three days that reinforce thoughts that you have been having for a few weeks.

The first was a long, but important, read from Andrew Sullivan. In his article, I Used To Be A Human Being, he chronicles his struggle with technology, having established a highly sucessful web site and social media presence only to see it taking the life out of him. In that article, Sullivan wrote:

I tried reading books, but that skill now began to elude me. After a couple of pages, my fingers twitched for a keyboard. I tried meditation, but my mind bucked and bridled as I tried to still it. I got a steady workout routine, and it gave me the only relief I could measure for an hour or so a day. But over time in this pervasive virtual world, the online clamor grew louder and louder. Although I spent hours each day, alone and silent, attached to a laptop, it felt as if I were in a constant cacophonous crowd of words and images, sounds and ideas, emotions and tirades — a wind tunnel of deafening, deadening noise. So much of it was irresistible, as I fully understood. So much of the technology was irreversible, as I also knew. But I’d begun to fear that this new way of living was actually becoming a way of not-living.

I was shocked with how much I could identify with Sullivan though his involvement in the blogging and online world was exponentially greater than my own. I used to read for hours on end, but now can barely handle a few pages at a time. Believe it or not, seminary didn’t help this skill. I would often read the assignments in short blocks unless pressed by a deadline. And, the noise he mentions. I know that noise!

After that, I noticed another article being posted frequently by friends. In this one, Lore Ferguson Wilbert wrote about the writer’s tendency in the media age to write without processing through the stories of our lives. She wrote:

As writers, we often hand over our souls and stories for the price of approval, advances, page-views, speaking opportunities, and more book deals. But sometimes (not always) the best thing to do is to be silent. To listen. To hear. To experience emotions without immediately finding a place for them. To resist the urge to make a story with a beginning, middle, and end out of our ongoing brokenness and frailty. None of this will sell books, of course, but it will help us to understand the discipline of God, the grace of God, and the hard, deep work he is doing in our lives and will continue to do until we reach eternity’s shores.

Then, in a blog post referencing both of the above posts, Ed Cyzewski linked to a post by Russell Moore that reflected on Sullivan’s post, adding this important insight (emphasis added):

In our wired world, times of silence and inactivity will feel “awkward.” Such times will disorient us, just as we find ourselves nervous when on a long plane ride with no Internet connection. We will wonder what we’re missing out on. But that’s just the point. Churches should be places to remind us that what we’re in danger of missing isn’t really communicated by devices.

Churches can see what our smartphones are doing to us, and say to an exhausted world what Jesus once told us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” That’s a good word for a web-weary world.

With that, I had to admit to the Lord and to myself, “Message received.”

I have been spending more time than I thought would be necessary to untangle myself from social media and smartphone apps. I’ve been unsubscribing from email newsletters at a furious rate. I’m evaluating nearly everything I do online to determine if it is necessary to my work or to my volunteer ministry. I’m deleting Twitter, and deactivating Instagram (because that is the one social media app I do enjoy though much less so since it ditched the chronological feed.) My underused Pinterest and Tumblr accounts have bit the dust, too.

In a few days, the blog will fall silent for a season as well. The timing is ironic. I was so excited to be free of all the assignments and classwork of seminary so that I could focus on writing for my blog. Now, I am certain that I am being called away from that for a season to rebuild what has been deteriorating since I first started using social media more than 10 years ago.

I’m not sure how long that season will be or if a blog will be at the end of it.

Until then (as one of my favorite college bands sang), enjoy the silence.


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