Seattle Seahawks fans are known to be some of the loudest fans in sports. So, prior to the NFC title game, a group of Seahawks fans from the Seattle Youth Football League were offered $5,000 to watch the entire game in silence. Watch this video to see what happened.
In American society, there is not a lot of silence. We are surrounded with computer beeps, cell phone rings, car horns, and television sounds. As I write this post, I can hear my cuckoo clock ticking, the furnace running, our reverse osmosis water filter filtering, and my fingers typing on the keys. Silence is not easy to come by these days.
The video above speaks to me of the power of silence. When the game ends and the Seahawks fans burst out in shouts and applause, the moment is overwhelming. You can truly feel their joy, their excitement. But the experience would have been far less powerful, far less meaningful, without the silence that precluded it. But why? Why is silence so powerful? I think there are three reasons.
First, silence focuses us. In a world filled with distraction and noise, silence gives us space to think. It gives us a chance to re-evaluate life and find new direction. In 2005, Kim Jocelyn Dixon reviewed a book on silence and the Quaker tradition. In order to better review the book, she attended a Quaker Meeting. As she sat in silence, she realized that the silence magnified all the sounds that others were making and she felt at first like the silence was distracting rather than focusing her. But then she wrote, “I had come to the Meeting hoping for an experience of transcendence and found myself mired in immanence. But perhaps this was exactly the point. Maybe this is what the presence of Christ is: the indwelling of our very humanness.” Silence focuses us, maybe not on what we plan to focus on, but perhaps on what we need to focus on.
Second, silence opens us up. Noise and busyness make it easy for us to avoid emotion and pain. We often throw ourselves into television or work or any other activities just to distract ourselves from the pain and struggles of life. When my mom died, I was in graduate school. I threw myself into my studies to avoid the pain. Silence helps us embrace the pain. It opens us up, not only to feeling the emotions, but also to experiencing healing. When we avoid the silence, we simply bury the pain deeper. Silence opens us to experience the things we’ve been avoiding and find wholeness.
Third, silence allows us to hear God. Jesus was often said to go off by himself to pray. He would seek out silence in order to hear from God. In 1 King 18, we hear the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel. A great wind comes, but God is not in the wind. Then an earthquake, but God is not in the earthquake. Finally, a fire, but God is not in the fire. Then comes the sound of sheer silence. In that silence, Elijah hears from God. God is always around wanting to speak to us, but sometimes we need to step back from the noise of life in order to hear what God has to say.
There is power in silence. It focuses us, opens us up to experience healing and wholeness, and it allows us to hear from God. And when we spend time in silence, I think we will find that the noises of life have more depth and meaning. Do you practice silence? What has your experience of silence been? Chime in with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.