Do you ever find yourself talking because you don't know what to say?
We're a generation of talkers. We talk about things we know. We talk about things we don't know. We talk about things we'd like to know and things we only pretend to know. We talk when we pass each other in a busy shopping mall. We mouth words to one another at stoplights. We talk in the foyers of our churches; we whisper during prayer. We can't seem to share a space with anyone unless we're talking. (Unless we're texting, which is an entirely different phenomenon.) Sometimes, I'm pretty sure we're a people who are talking our way through our world, trying desperately to throw out enough words that we can hold on to just a few of them and somehow write a story.
I get it. Because for most of my life, I've been a talker, too. Some days, I still am. But something weird has been happening lately: I'm growing quiet.
This has not gone unnoticed.
What's interesting is that, in a world of talkers, it's the quiet people who are suspicious. Everyone wants to know what's wrong. What's wrong with you? You're quiet.
Quiet is a bad word. Quiet is a sign of trouble. Quiet is a sign of distress. Quiet, we think, is a sign of disengagement with the world. You're quiet only because you can't figure out anything to say. You're quiet because your experience is too overwhelming for words. You're quiet because whatever life demands of you at this moment exceeds your capacity to both live your story and tell it at the same time.
Over the past several months, God has been doing a settling work in me, and I've found myself with less of an inclination to speak. It's nothing really in particular. It's not that I'm feeling trapped in a story bigger than myself and struggling to find adequate words, so I use no words at all. It's not that I think my words might be wasted if I spoke them. It's not even that I'm insecure or uncertain or unsure about what's happening in me or around me. It's just that...I don't really need to speak.
Someone approached me about this recently. Am I okay? she asked. You're quiet. And she noted that I'd been growing progressively quiet over the recent weeks/months. I laughed a little and said, "Oh, I'm naturally quiet," which made her laugh, too. But then I added, "Actually, it's when I'm talking that I'm not okay."
It's when I'm talking that I'm being eaten alive by my own insecurities. If this isn't true before I start talking, in which case I'm using words and noise to fill the emptiness of my own vulnerability, it is most certainly true as soon as the first sound comes out of my mouth. When the words start to roll off my tongue, I wonder if I'm saying the right things. If I'm saying them the right way. If all this noise I'm making is really doing anything but squelching the heart-wrenching silence that swells to fill the void of all that I am not. If all this noise is squelching the silence at all.
I don't think I'm alone in this. Even for being a generation of talkers, I don't know very many people at all who can tolerate the sound of their own voice. Nobody likes to record themselves talking and listen to it play back. No one likes to check their voicemail recording to make sure it sounds okay; it never does. It sounds like...us. It sounds like insecurity. Doesn't it? Tell me it's not just me.
And yet, we spend our lives talking, filling the void with the sound of our own voices, which even we cannot stand, all the while convincing ourselves that it's not noise, but quiet, that is the problem.
But I'm growing quiet. I'm growing quiet in a world of talkers. And I'm absolutely loving it. Because I recognize in my quietness a life that is finally, truly coming to rest. I'm coming to rest. I'm coming to be okay with my own story, with all the pregnant pauses and chapter breaks and unfinished story lines. I'm coming to be okay with living my story without telling it all the time. I'm coming to understand that the best testimony of who I am is my quietness. The best testimony of who God is is my stillness.
You are praised with silence in Zion, O God. - Psalm 65:1
Praised with silence. That's what the Psalmist says. God is praised with silence. He is praised without words, not because words are inadequate but because they are unnecessary. He is praised with silence because He settles the world into its story. He is praised with silence because a world that always feels like it has to fill the void with noise no longer feels the need to do so. Because a world that trembles under the weight of its own emptiness finds that it is silence, not noise, that expands to fill this space.
He is praised with silence because there is no greater testimony to the greatness of God than a life at rest in a restless world.