Thursday, January 21, 2010

SIlent Driving

Lately, I have been turning off the radio or CD player in my car so that I can enjoy a few minutes of silence. At first, driving in silence seems strange. There are so few places in our lives where we experience silence. Yet, silence feeds the soul in ways different than music or words.

When you think about it, our lives are filled with noise. Much of this noise is in the background and we become so used to it we don’t even notice it. We once lived in a house a few blocks from Interstate 95. At first, when we sat out on the deck in the evening, we were conscious of the almost constant traffic noise. But after a few months, we didn’t “hear” it any longer and when friends would come over and comment on the noise we were surprised. Then, we moved to a house much farther away from the highway. It was so quiet that, at first, we couldn’t sleep at night! Eventually, we got used to the quietness. Yes, silence takes some getting used to.

Praying is one of the most spiritual acts. In prayer, we bring all that we are to God in words spoken, thought or felt. When I use the word “prayer” I am referring to the fullness of kinds of praying: praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession and supplication. However, we can fall into the trap of viewing prayer as a one way street: us communicating to God. The other dimension of prayer is listening. And to listen, we must be silent.

Silent driving opens up the possibility of listening to God and to our innermost selves. The great 20th century spirituality writer, Thomas Merton, once said, “God speaks to us in three ways: in the words of scripture, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger.” When we are driving in silence, we especially are open to hearing God speaking in our deepest selves, our souls.

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