“Silence is God’s first language.” – St. John of the Cross
Years ago, my husband and I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. We weren’t far into the book at all when we learned that while a kind or heartfelt word or sentence for me is the equivalent to a warm embrace, my husband would much prefer the physical embrace of a hug to loving words of affection. What we learned from the book was that each of our primary “love languages” (the gestures and behaviors in which we best understand love) differed for each of us. With that new awareness, we began to make an effort to “speak” each other’s primary love language more often. While our marriage had been strong before, we found that understanding this about each other and making a few changes to the way in which we behaved towards each other took us to a deeper level of appreciating and understanding our marital connection.
That’s why, when I read the words of St. John of the Cross defining God’s “first language” as silence, I believed that if I wanted to get to experience God on an even deeper level, I needed to make some adjustments to my habits and behaviors. I understood that making time for silence in my life was the equivalent to making time for God. As a result, over the past several weeks, I’ve changed my behavior in such a way that I’ve deliberately “penciled in” quiet time with God. And by that, I mean I spend time in absolute silence. It is time spent outside of my “normal” time with God (the times when I read Scripture and pray or meditate), so when I started I hardly knew what to expect. It seemed silly to be nervous, but, at the same time, absolute silence is really not something many of us are used to. What if I started hearing voices? Or, even worse, what if I drove myself mad?
No doubt, silence can be uncomfortable. Especially in comparison to the “normal” hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Most of us hit the alarm clock in the morning, swing our legs out of bed and go, go, go all day long hopping from one task to another with hardly a breath in between. In addition, electricity and technology make it all too convenient for us to spend any time in solitude (silence’s close friend). As a result, when we do stumble into a moment without being “plugged in” to something outside ourselves, it is understandable why we may quickly grow uncomfortable, restless, and fidgety. In addition, even if our body has built-in times of rest throughout our day, our minds usually still zip around checking off all the things we got done, the things we still need to do, and things that we plan to do “some day.”
When I embraced the idea that God’s primary language is silence, I realized that while I’d spent my life fully expecting (and at times, even demanding) that God come to me and speak my primary language of love (“Just give me a sign! Any sign!”), the thought had never occurred to me to make time to learn to “speak” His language.
I had doubts that I was even up for the task.
I quickly learned, however, that my “faith the size of a mustard seed” (Matthew 17:20) was all I needed to bring. That is why, with great confidence, I encourage and invite you to make time– even if only a little– to spend with God in His “first language.” I have found silence with God to be not only a welcome–but also a very necessary– part of my daily life. By implementing this practice into our daily lives, it is my prayer that we will grow to learn what Job has known from the beginning, “If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!” (Job 13:5)