by Beth Scott.
I am not a naturally quiet person, let alone a silent one. I am relational and I love people.
I am now twenty-eight years old, and for years when I was younger, I was discouraged because I thought I had no desire for silence. And deep down, I wasn’t even sure if I was capable of it.
People would tell me—at retreats, in spiritual books, at Madonna House—that silence is a good thing. It is necessary, they would say, for finding God. Everyone, they would say, needs some quiet time with him every day.
So I would try—again. But I saw silence a lot the same way as I saw broccoli. I knew broccoli was good for me because people I trusted told me so. But I got no pleasure out of eating it, and I never saw the good results that were promised. So, left to my own devices, I never ate it.
But somehow, though I could live very well without broccoli, I was never satisfied with my lack of silence. I kept trying for it, attempting a daily prayer time because, well, wasn’t that the right thing to do?
I tried many different things, but I always felt that I failed. I was so discouraged and ashamed that checking my Facebook was so much more engaging than reading the Bible, even for a few minutes every day. And it bothered me how easily something like shoe shopping could derail my trip to the adoration chapel.
I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me for not desiring silence.
As time went on, however, I discovered that there were times when I did have that desire. I started noticing those times and the times when God was drawing me.
Here are a few tiny examples, a few things I started wondering about. Why did I walk to the bus stop without my earphones in? When I woke up in the morning, why did I have no desire to turn on the computer?
Why did I just sit drinking my coffee and looking out the window instead? And why did I stay sitting in the pew after Mass after everyone else had left?
Did I really have a desire for silence and just hadn’t recognized it? Were these instances of God very quietly making my desire for silence and union with him known to me?
For me, amazingly, poustinia was the key to my conversion towards silence. I needed a physical place away from all distractions. I also needed some accountability in my prayer life.
If I have some free time and decide to pray but then change my mind and don’t do it, who’s to know. But if I’ve talked with my spiritual director about going to poustinia, it’s a lot less likely that I’ll walk out after an hour just because I don’t feel like being there.
It was in the poustinia that I learned something very important about silence: I learned that silence is not empty.
I used to think I was aiming for some kind of formless void, but I discovered that really, silence is a meeting place with the Lord. That is its whole purpose. For me, it became the place where I met him most clearly.
I’ve discovered that silence is so, so worthwhile.
If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!