Author, Angela Barnes Butler, has written about the discoveries she made as she learned to listen to the stillness. As I read her post, I realized I had often mistaken stillness for silence. http://angela-wholehearted.blogspot.com/2012/12/stillness.html
I wished as a child I had fully understood the difference between stillness and silence…but I’ve learned that wisdom is not always given to the young.
My father was a very quiet man, always loving and also a hardworking business man, but he was not always comfortable talking with people. Sadly, this sometimes included his own family. My mother was just the opposite: strong-willed and a strong communicator. But sadly for us, this meant when she didn’t get her way, she would blow up and then punish us with silence…sometimes for days.
I am able now to recognize that my mother had some emotional difficulties. At the time, I walked in fear of doing something to upset her. My brother (13 years older) moved out but felt he had abandoned me. Our father buried himself in his work. The silence was deafening to this little girl. My imaginary friend was birthed and Artney was a loyal, but silent companion.
I became a chatterer. I talked to everyone who would listen and even to some who wouldn’t! I talked so much, I soon was getting in trouble at home, at school and even at church…but at least there was no silence in my head.
Almost 20 years later, my newlywed husband realized he had married someone who started a conversation the minute my eyes were open in the morning. He often fell asleep with me still in conversation at night! He lovingly told me one time, “Ruth, I would love you even if you weren’t talking!”
That was almost 40 years ago and fortunately I have learned and appreciate the distinct difference between silence and stillness. This is a good thing. Our children are now young adults. My husband has had advanced Parkinson’s for several years now. I often encounter my old enemy of silence. But the wisdom I really needed as a child has taught me to turn silence into stillness.
In the Old Testament we read about the prophet Elijah who went into a cave. “And the word of the LORD came to him… in a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:9, 12). David, the young shepherd boy who would become a King, recorded “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3). And the Lord tells us “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
I continue to learn about stillness. I recognize that I can be free from distraction, free from noise. In stillness I learn submission. I now recognize I can be at peace even in the midst of a storm or in the middle of silence.
So I wait in stillness and listen…carefully…to what The Lord has to say in my heart.