Thursday, October 22, 2009


Anyone who has sat through a “moment of silence” knows that awkward, it should end right about now moment. Most of us are uncomfortable sitting silently with a group of people – so uncomfortable that our minds aren’t focused on the power of that moment, but on when it will end.

Here we miss the easiest and most simple opportunity to experience the spiritual side of “when two or more are gathered”. Why then are we so uncomfortable with the experience?

Any moment of silence is a stopping or ceasing of the onward pace of our lives. Perhaps we associate that stopping with the ultimate ceasing - as if activity reinforced our existence, but inactivity was its death. The truth is inactivity is the sister to activity. Both are necessary in order to have a balanced life in the same way breathing in and breathing out has purpose.

If we could get past that awkward moment and persist long enough to settle into that silence with our fellow travelers we would discover something more powerful than the pace of our lives – we would discover its immediacy and the spiritual Presence that is always with us in our haste.

This is why Quaker Meeting for Worship has such a special meaning for me. In that purposeful silence – when each and everyone seek the same Source with the same focus – something magical happens.

In 1996 I attended a Quaker Conference held on the University campus of UMASS in Amherst, Massachusetts. One evening the Meeting for Worship contained almost 300 people. We sat in silent worship for nearly an hour before anyone had the “leading” to speak. The person who did share said one of the most profound things I had ever heard in my life.

“When it is so silent, and I am so full, it is not because something needs to be said, but because something needs to be lived.”

Simply put, if we took the time to get past the discomfort of silence we would experience the fullness of emptiness. In our logical minds silence is emptiness – our worst case scenario for what happens after life – and noise if fullness. That’s just the point. We need to be empty to receive. When we are full of “noise” nothing gets in; not even “that still small voice”.

It is our discomfort with silence that keeps us from staying with it long enough for our spirits to learn the difference. Sitting silently with other people is the most basic form of worship. When we can let that void exist among us it will naturally fill with God’s love, because that love is the pervasive force behind everything that ever has been or ever will be.

So do yourself a favor. Wait a little longer. The result will surprise you.

© 2009

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