Would you try something? Silence your phone, turn off the music, and set a timer for two minutes.
Sit silently until the alarm goes off.
I’m happy to wait on you while you try this.
How was that? As I was writing this, I tried it myself and was reminded once again how difficult silence can be.
We are not comfortable with silence, but silence is so powerful.
Through the team at EmotionallyHealthy.org, I learned of a fascinating example that brings out tremendous emotion in me every single time I watch it.1 Researchers brought in sets of parents and adult kids to have them experience the power of emotional silence. They were brought into a sterile room, one parent-child pair at a time, and were asked to stand facing each other for four minutes. Perfectly quiet, perfectly still, with no distractions for four full minutes. Of course, when NBC aired the project, they didn’t show the entire four minutes, but they did show the powerful emotions that rose to the surface simply because of the space provided by silence.
A mother told of how she looked into her son’s face and thought about the moment he was born.
A son told of how much gratitude he felt, thinking about how much his mother had sacrificed for him.
A father told of how much potential he saw in his daugh- ter’s future.
It’s such a simple but profound concept. Why? Because we are not comfortable with silence, yet it is so powerful!
Emotionally healthy leaders turn down the noise low enough and long enough to allow space for curiosity.
As difficult or uncomfortable as this might be, it absolutely requires the habit of getting quiet. And it can’t be a onetime thing. It must become part of your daily or at the very least weekly routine in life.
Silence is scarce. Honestly, it might even be nonexistent. When was the last time you sat in complete silence? Having five little kids has made silence an absolute impossibility. My wife and I have actually contemplated having our kids’ hearing checked because they’re so loud. Honestly though, I can’t make a commute without listening to podcasts or music. Sitting quietly in my car drives me nuts! And that’s not because there’s anything wrong with silence itself. No, it’s because we’ve never been trained to appreciate silence. For most people, it’s an acquired taste.
Appreciating silence is especially difficult when I’m by myself. And those moments are rare given my wiring and personality. Times of solitude are times when I most desire sound. If I make time in the day to go for a run or a walk alone, there’s no way I’m going without my phone. I have to have some sort of sound in my head.
Let’s look at someone who, having more leadership power than anyone who has ever lived, made silence and solitude a regular part of his life.
TIME IS NOT A GREAT EXCUSE
In Mark’s account of the life of Jesus, we find his perspective on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And in only a handful of verses, Mark shows us how crucial silence and solitude were in the life of Jesus. If God incarnate needed silence and solitude, I’d say you and I should pay attention to our own need for these things as well.
Starting in Mark 1:14, Jesus walks into Galilee and starts preaching. He goes throughout the town telling people about the good news He has brought with Him.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. — Mark 1:15 ESV
This is big news! Immediately, people start following Him around, trying to hear more. As He traverses the town, Jesus starts calling His disciples. Like Oprah handing out free cars, Jesus points to Simon Peter and says, “You get to follow Me!” Then to his brother Andrew, “And you get to follow Me!”
They immediately drop what they’re doing and follow Jesus. Why not, right? Next time we see them they’re at the synagogue. Think of this place as a mix between the town center and the church. It was the Sabbath, so everyone had gathered to hear the teaching. Now, you have to picture this. Those gathered have priests who teach them every week — the same way a church would have a regular pastor giving the message. But suddenly, this complete stranger gets up and starts right in on what He has to say.
Did the priests ask Jesus to teach? Did the people know He was coming? I have no idea. But I can’t help but picture Jesus bursting through the doors and walking straight to the front. I don’t know if that’s exactly how it happened, but regardless, Jesus teaches in a way the people have never heard before.
To me, this is the strangest part of the story. What did He teach? What did he say? I can’t imagine! But whatever He said was powerful, because the people were astonished. Then things get even crazier.
While Jesus is teaching, a man with an unclean spirit starts yelling at Him. Jesus gets heckled! Again, was this a regular church attendee? Or was this guy new too? We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus casts the unclean spirit out of this man. What?
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen comedians roast hecklers — it can be pretty funny — but that’s nothing compared to Jesus. This man is yelling at him, and Jesus says,
Be silent, and come out of him! — Mark 1:25 ESV
And — bam! The spirit leaves. This has already been a big day for Jesus. Even reading about it has me a little exhausted. But wait, there’s more!
Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law, who happens to be very sick. Can you imagine Jesus coming to your house the one day you’re sick in bed? I’m picturing Simon’s mother-in-law sniffling with puffy eyes and Kleenex scattered all over the bed (I know Kleenex hadn’t been invented yet, but just follow along). This is the scene Jesus walks into. And what does He do? He heals her. Of course.
In an instant she goes from lying in bed to bustling around the house making dinner and serving them. News of this miracle spreads quickly, and people line up outside the house asking Jesus to heal them. Mark tells us that
the whole town gathered at the door. — Mark 1:33
And Jesus heals one after another after another.
Now, I would think that after that type of day, Jesus would probably sleep in. Seems fair, right? Nope. We read,
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. — Mark 1:35 ESV
This story fascinates me. Not only does it paint this incredible picture of Jesus bursting onto the scene, but it also reveals His character in cool and subtle ways. Moreover, it shows us the value of silence and solitude.
If Jesus knew and acted on the importance of getting away, getting alone, and getting quiet, shouldn’t we?
- “Face to Face: Parents, Children Share Four Minutes of Emotional Silence,” NBC News, December 19, 2016, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/face-face -parents-children-share-four-minutes-emotional-silence -n693196.
Excerpted with permission from How to Lead in a World of Distraction by Clay Scroggins, copyright Clay Scroggins.
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Are you comfortable in silence? What goes through your mind? What happens in your spirit when you spend time in silence before God? Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily