Day 27: The Awkward Silence
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
And God rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.--Genesis 2:2
I have a friend who is a master at the awkward silence. When we are hanging out he has no problem letting the conversation come to an uneasy halt while my anxious fingers begin to roll across the table, my eyebrows raise, my mouth puckers and curves to one side as a I make a clicking noise and then, desperately reaching for the next topic, I say, "So…looks like they fixed the sidewalk outside the coffee shop…"
He is perfectly content to just be with me, pleasantly sitting there in silence, enjoying the present moment. No agenda…just be. But me? No way? The silence is torturous! I feel compelled to fill that empty space with anything. Anything!
Miles Davis is famous for all the notes he didn’t play. No awkward silence here. He was a master at leaving just the right amount of space between notes to create a unique effect. When other musicians were trying to see how many note they could cram into a space, he was sitting back, waiting in all his coolness, leaving space to create something amazing. He was a genius.
Is your life more like a frenetic instrumental run like a busy saxophone solo that is so crazy and chaotic it feels like it’s about to fall apart? Are you trying to cram in all the notes? Musicians call it overplaying. It'll ruin a perfectly good song.
I don't know of any person above age 7 who doesn't feel "crazy busy". We all dart from our pillow to one frantic activity to the next, putting out fires, addressing drama, producing more until we crash land on our pillow again, only to repeat the process tomorrow. So the idea of taking a break from all of that frenzy is absurd. Not only do we "not have time" but we also don't know how to stop. For example, set this to the side and put a timer on your phone for 3 minutes and just sit in silence until the timer goes off and then come back to this post.
You didn't do it did you? You kept reading, didn't you? You're too busy to do that exercise and finish this devotional. Or maybe you did sit in silence for 3 minutes. How much did your mind wander? How many times did you want to check the phone to see where in that 3 minutes you were at? Or maybe you started your 3 minutes but someone interrupted you with their "emergency" and you never finished the 3 minutes and since you got distracted you forgot about this devotional…so you're not even reading this right now. You're off with your busy day.
Admit it, you don't know how to stop. Stopping to rest creates an awkward silence rather than a prayerful moment of restfulness where you are fully present in the lucidity of the glorious now.
The past and the future encroach on those moments with lightning fast speed. But the beauty of your life is found in between the notes, in between activities, in between last week and next week, in between the demands of the past and the anxieties of the future. The beauty of your life is…now. The challenge of Sabbath is found in the demands of last week as they cry out to you, "Complete what you left undone! Fix what you left broken! Take care of the things that are still up in the air. Solidify the things that are still fluid." Then you have the demands of your coming week, "Be anxious about that uncertainty! Make plans to accomplish that to-do list! Be afraid of that conversation you will have on Wednesday!"
Do you see this as spiritual slavery?
The invitation of Sabbath is an invitation to take all the events of last week and all the events of the coming week and lay them at the feet of Jesus. God wants to liberate you from having to make up for what is lacking and from having to get a head start on your work all in the name of the tyranny of production.
God rested. He took a full day to stop, to not produce anything, to celebrate what he had made. Interestingly enough, his declaration about his past work was, "It is good," not "it is perfect." It seems even God refused to overplay. He let the past be the past and to let the future be the future.
How can we actually rest from the past and the future when there is so much to make up for and so much to be done?
We need to realize that everything that really needs to be done has been taken care of. The ramifications of Jesus saying, "It is finished!" are cosmic and we need to meditate on what it means for us to grab a hold of that truth and apply it to the "needs" of your work, family, ambitions, anxieties and fears.
And it may be that, in general, we just need to do less.
Listen for the voice of Jesus when he says, "You don't need to do that."
I confess my silent moments are mostly awkward and I desperately want to fill those empty spaces with noise. Help me to relinquish the anxieties, failures and stresses of last week and help me to leave the demands of the coming week to your powerful hands. Turn my awkward silence into restful presence. Amen.