#LentTogether: Finding Jesus in Silence

#LentTogether: Finding Jesus in Silence

Lent Together Emery Silva bannerGuest Post by Emery Silva  for the #LentTogether Blog Series on Behind the Books

After another hectic morning in which the kids left crumbs on the table, papers scattered on the floor, and the adrenaline of almost missing the bus, I grabbed my phone, eager to connect with a friend and regain some sanity on the drive to the office. And then I remembered my promise.

During Lent, I’ve chosen to fast from noise. That’s right, noise. I define “noise” as the relentless assault of sensory stimuli, media-pumped information, and tasks vying for my attention.

When I’m in the car, my spiritual practice is to avoid phone calls, radio, podcasts, and music in order to talk with Jesus. When I’m at work, I take moments to pray while I’m waiting for the computer to load or I just don’t know how to overcome the latest problem. I take walks around the neighborhood and swim in the local pool and know I’m consciously fasting from the storm of human information.

As a mom of three kids who works full-time nationally for InterVarsity, while also volunteering at church, I don’t have a lot of silent moments. And to be honest, I resist them because they are so uncomfortable. I’m accustomed to getting something done, all the time, because that’s what’s expected of me. There’s too many emails to respond to, projects to design, and meetings to attend to sit still for long. At home, I fold laundry while prompting kids to do their chores or practice instruments and I wash dishes as I arbitrate sibling fights. Although I would never admit it on the surface, deep down, I operate with the belief that Jesus and I have this understanding: I just have to be this busy. And to be honest, I like it.

Lent prompts me to give up my favorite addiction so that I can try, imperfectly, to listen to Jesus. It’s in those moments that the anxiety rears its head: the anxiousness of not accomplishing, not connecting with another live person whose voice is easily audible. There’s a dissonance in the separation from others that feels like a tug of war in my soul as I push through it. In the absence of external noise, I find myself talking aloud to Jesus. When I don’t know what to say, I make gratitude lists to recount all He has given me. I count my breaths or focus on a line of Scripture as a way to practice centering prayer, as Mary Kate Morse teaches in A Guidebook to Prayer. At times, I get frustrated because I so want to talk with another person instead of being alone. Yet many times, I’ll reach for my phone and find that it has either mysteriously malfunctioned or just feels a bit empty, so I’m back to Jesus.

Lent prompts me to give up my favorite addiction so that I can try, imperfectly, to listen to Jesus.

I notice more in those moments of silence. The sunset appears with more vibrant colors. I catch a glimpse of a pond that I hadn’t seen before. I suddenly recognize the pressure that’s been building inside of me all day. I become more aware of my feelings of anger, hurt, fear, and joy. I see my children and my husband from a place of longing and appreciation, instead of frustration. I’m reminded of my promises to intercede for students and colleagues and I sink into those needs in prayer like my children dive into the swimming pool.

Sometimes I need the support of community to practice silence, as antithetical as that seems. Early on Saturday mornings, a group of like-minded friends gathers in the quiet corners of a church. We read an inspirational text, then set a timer for fifteen minutes of silent meditation with the Lord and share our experiences with each other afterwards. Sometimes those fifteen minutes feel endless and I’m convinced I’m just talking to myself; other times, I sense an alignment with Jesus or a new clarity in how to view a problem. At home, I host my school-age children for “Family Quiet Time” in which we all sit on the couch with Bibles and journals, together but soundless in expressing and listening, communing with Jesus.

Jesus had his own moments of silence and solitude in powerful nights of prayer where the Father directed Him on his next steps, such as to move from healing in Capernaum to preaching in the nearby villages (Mark 1). I imagine those as the happy, connected times of silence—although one could argue that His divine connection with His Father meant that those conversations were neither silent nor solo. Jesus’ longest period of solitude took place in his 40 days in the desert, when he fasted from food and sparred victoriously with Satan. But I also imagine the hardest moments of solitary prayer, such as when He knelt in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking God to take “this cup” as his friends failed to stay awake to support Him. Even on the cross, I imagine Him hanging in his own private silence in incredible physical and mental agony, sensing God’s absence, tuning out the antagonistic crowds. In a strange way, my choice to be conscious and present connects me to Jesus as I reflect on His moments of silence in the passion narrative.

In Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Ruth Haley Barton describes this spiritual practice as “an invitation to the adventure of spiritual transformation in the deepest places of our being, an adventure that will result in greater freedom and authenticity and surrender to God than we have yet experienced.” Lent gives me the opportunity to remember my limitations—from dust we came and to dust we return—instead of living in the delusions of superhuman possibilities. Fasting and prayer open my heart and mind to the One whose voice is utterly reliable, whose omnipresence is always with me, and whose love fills my deepest hungers to be known and loved. Lent is an invitation to know Jesus and ourselves as we consciously detach from the world and embrace Him.

About the Author

Emery SilvaEmery Silva is the national assistant director of ministry partnership development at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where she writes curriculum, trains and coaches staff, and edits an internal InterVarsity website. Previously, she planted the Greek InterVarsity chapter for fraternity and sorority students at Northwestern University, where she served for sixteen years. She and her husband John have three young children. On an average weekend, you can find them on a family bike ride, re-reading favorite novels, playing musical instruments, and chasing their pet rats around the basement.

Connect with Emery on Facebook.

Recommended Reading

A Guidebook to Prayer

“I find A Guidebook to Prayer helpful not as a manual of ‘how tos’ but as a guide into the reality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to whom and in whom we pray. MaryKate Morse guides us also into the many creative ways in which we can open ourselves (and listen) in prayer. And she guides us into prayer that deeply explores our hearts and brings us into a transforming relationship with our Creator. I found myself pausing to talk to God in ways she suggests. I hope many will read and be so guided!”

Leighton Ford, author of The Attentive Life


Invitation to Solitude and Silence

“I find books in the genre of the contemplative life are often written by mystics who occupy some rarified, ethereal realm in which I don’t seem to live. Not so with Ruth Haley Barton‘s Invitation to Solitude and Silence. Ruth takes us on her journey into solitude and silence as one, like most of us, who must learn to commune with God in the muchness of life.”

Greg Ogden, author of Discipleship Essentials