And in the silence, we do not fear

By Mackenzie Miller – Horizon Editor-in-Chief

A prayer labyrinth at the Whispering Winds Camp. Photo courtesy of Bethany Miller.

I entered into the woods on a crisp, fall afternoon to meet God.

And as the leaves crunched under my feet, as the wind whistled among the trees and as the birds called to one another, I began to breathe. To really breathe.

One breath in. Another one out.

And in the silence, I waited for God.

Silence. It’s a word that our bodies and minds often fear. But even more so, it’s a word that society has forgotten the value of.

Just walk across the Hesston College campus and it won’t take long to see that we, too, have fallen into the trap of too much noise.

But this past weekend, electronic devices, homework, and even excessive talking were left behind, as the Hesston College faith and discipleship class encountered silence in our most vulnerable state.

We took to the woods for a silent retreat.

And in the silence, God was waiting for us.

In his book, “God is No Fool, Lois A. Cheney writes that meditation, a form of silence, is a lost art. And this makes God a lost art.

“I wonder whether God could be heard what with all the singing and praying and talking and feeling good and feeling bad and feeling so-so,” Cheney writes. “I think God talks in whispers, in tiny little whispers. And to hear a tiny little whisper, you must be very, very silent, and very, very alone, and open.”

And these silent whispers should be sought out with joy.

Take the monks, for example. Never did they associate silence with gloominess, said George Prochnik, author of “In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise.”

“There’s a sense of joyfulness,” he said. “Of turning themselves [monks] down to be conscious of greater things.”

And whether that greater thing for you is God, or just the relief of putting your thoughts to rest, welcome the silence.

Students from the faith and discipleship class listen to Michele Hershberger open the weekend.

But that’s scary to do when society convinces us that being loud means having more fun.

And in the silence of the woods, I was scared. Would I hear God? And if I did, would I want to hear what he had to say?

One breath in. Another one out.

I journeyed further into the woods and stumbled upon a prayer labyrinth.

“Okay, God,” I said. “I’m here.”

But before I could begin, I heard a rustling in the trees. And there, camouflaged within the trees was a coyote. Starting to run away, the coyote then stopped and turned around, staring right at me.

I quickly walked in the opposite direction, looking for the fastest way out of the woods.

But something stopped me. I began walking back to the entrance of the labyrinth.

The coyote was gone. But the poignance of the moment lingered.

But at the edge of the silent labyrinth, I had just stood eye to eye with a coyote. Eye to eye with God.

I entered into the woods on a crisp, fall afternoon to meet God.

And he met me. He met me in an animal that induces fear, but also evokes great beauty.

A metaphor for silence.

We fear the vulnerability that silence brings, but when we learn to welcome it, beauty enters in.

One breath in. Another one out.

And in the silence, we do not fear.


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