We are busy. The "we" of my husband and I. The "we" of my church. The "we" of America. We are busy. About a month ago, our young adult bible study went on a retreat to Forest Home's Briefing conference. On the last night of the conference the whole camp did an hour of silence. Not just quiet time with music or reading your Bible.
I took this time very seriously, because I realized that silence is not just shutting your mouth, it is shutting off your mind. I think many people, (very much including myself) have this tendency to pray before bed and every 4 seconds into praying you are thinking about what to do tomorrow...then you remember that you were praying and on the cycle goes again. We just can't seem to quiet our minds long enough.
While I was engaged in the hour of silence, it literally took me 45 minutes to stop "talking" in my mind. It reminded me of a practice I took up in college for a class. We had to partake in a spiritual discipline, and I choose to go into our schools prayer chapel for an hour, 5 days a week. I could have gotten away with saying that I would pray for 15 minutes in the morning, but for some reason I chose a whole hour to spend time with God out of my day. Which feels like a lot! At first it was...but it became on of my most cherished memories of my college experience. I would read my Bible, pray, draw, spend time is silence, even dance sometimes. Soon, that hour went by so quickly that I wanted more. I felt connected to the Creator. I felt good about who I was and my identity in Christ. I loved God and I knew God loved me back. I desperately miss those times. I was rejuvenated and re-centered. And lately I've been so busy that I may have forgotten who I am and who my God is...
But anyway, back to the hour of silence, 45 whole minutes is what it took for me to unwind, and finally LISTEN. I kept saying "stop. listen." if I felt myself starting to even "talk" to God. This was a time to listen in silence. Not to talk to God, but to let God talk to me.
Finally after 45 minutes, and then after a few more of intense silence, God said this:
"Hello, my sunshine."
Oh, I smiled. I listened as flashes of myself as a child ran through my head. Those innocent qualities of a child. Those qualities that we know we have deep inside us, but that we've pushed away for so long. For me, I was a bright, smiling, crazy, laughing, singing, mischievous, little girl who knew exactly what she wanted, and those things are still a part of my soul. That is who I am when no one is looking. That is who I am with my family, my husband and my God. But even with those closest to me, I can forget who I am. There are so many identities to chose from...so many expectations in our lives that push us to take on those different identities and internalize a negative self image because our view of ourselves is based on our accomplishments or how others see us.
That is why true silence in the presence of the One who loves you most, good and bad, thick and thin (and many other cliches) is so crucial to feeling and knowing that YOU MATTER in this world. And it is so crucial to being able to DO THE THINGS THAT MATTER. If you are doing so many things and never taking time for yourself you will not do any of those things well. Do only what you can while still taking time to rest, because you can make a difference doing the few things you care about passionately.
So I challenge myself to take specific time out of my week to be silent. And I challenge myself to find my identity in Christ. Because, I am God's Sunshine.