I am discovering that, more than food, I need silence. This was especially apparent to me on a recent silent retreat. While only away for two nights, my soul was nourished in a way that simply does not happen in my normal rhythm of life, even with a regular habit of daily silence.
“Need” may seem like a strong word, but it is deliberately chosen. I know that such times of retreat are needed for my life, for my spirit to grow inside me and become my whole life, filling in every crack and crevice and pushing out anything that claims to be other than my spiritual life.
Thomas Merton says, in Thoughts in Solitude, “The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”
Silence is for me, and I believe for all of us, necessary for that spiritual life to be lived. Silence helps us to strip away those false gods that compete for our attention, that demand we live noisy, scattered, complicated lives so we will feel we are really “worth” something. In silence, I have come to know that the only thing, the only thing that can satisfy my desire for worth is God’s love for me. In silence, I can hear God call me Beloved.
Silence, paradoxically, has moved me from certainty about many things religious, to uncertainty about much of what I hear other Christians shout with great certainty. Silence, though, has made me certain about what I believe is the one thing needful: to know I am a loved and forgiven child of God.