I have a confession to make: I’m not a morning person. 

Over time I’ve gone from loathing, to tolerating, to looking forward to them. After a few sips of coffee, I’m able to relax into the stillness of the morning. I love that the world hasn’t stirred yet and all I hear is my neighbor’s wind chimes, the birds singing their morning song, and my thoughts slowly but steadily rising to the surface. The quiet of the morning invites me to slow down, breathe, and take a different kind of rest before I dive headfirst into the hustle and bustle of my day. 

It’s not a mystery that our world is loud. Our days are full of notifications that keep us locked in the hamster wheel of busyness. Our attention darts from one interaction to the next so often that the prospect of slowing down to silence the buzz of to-do lists feels virtually impossible.

We have a complicated relationship to this part of life, don’t we? Part of us resents our world for keeping us from the “peace and quiet” we desperately need, but another part, when met with the opportunity for peace and quiet, squirms in discomfort when it’s staring us in the face.

The external noise insulates us from tuning in to the internal chatter that can feel scary, messy, and unknown. We dip in and out of slowing down and tuning in, to feeling overwhelmed when we try, and back peddling out of that quiet place inside.

What further complicates the issue is that the longer we wait, the larger the backlog of thoughts and emotions there is to sift through. For many of us, the whole situation becomes too overwhelming and we avoid the silence altogether. But we underestimate the profound moments that are only possible when we befriend the silence. It’s no wonder Jesus was constantly stealing away from the crowd to some mountain or desert. He understood the importance of silencing the outside noise to connect with his humanity—his thoughts and feelings—but also to his father’s voice. 

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16 NLT)

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” (Luke 5:12 NLT)

I’ve often wondered what compelled Jesus to go to the wilderness in one instance and to the mountains in another. We could speculate it was about the perspective he gained while in each setting. Either way, he consistently withdrew from the crowd to step into the silence with his father. 

Until recently, I never realized that part of the reason for our collective aversion to the silence has to do with how we interpret it.

Are we interpreting it as a time to feel guilty, afraid, ashamed, judged, or criticized? Whether by ourselves or by God? For me, when silence seemed to be initiated by God or others I felt a surge of anxiety. I had little tolerance for the silence because I interpreted it as being ignored, forgotten, or rejected.

Once we are aware of how we have interpreted the silence, we can challenge and correct the false narratives we’ve been rehearsing. What if the silence could be a kind, non-judgmental friend? What if the silence could be a portal into hearing the loving voice of God, without shame? What if the silence is an invitation to be known more deeply by yourself and by God? What if silence doesn’t mean you are being ignored or rejected? What if you can lean into the silence and gain a deeper understanding that will empower you in your life and relationships?

Regardless of the time of day, make room for the silence.

Take inventory of how you have interpreted it and allow God to offer you a different perspective. As you befriend the silence, it will become a friend you want to meet with often. A friend who is safe, gentle, and truthful.