As an architect my Dad built office buildings, shopping centers, and churches. We would visit examples of these structures to observe how others dealt with the use of space. When viewing churches we examined the sanctuary when it was not in use. As Dad walked among the pews he would shout “Aha, aha” over and over again. He was listening as the sound reverberated through the room. Apparently the sound requirements for pastors and musicians are quite different; it is a problem the architect struggles to resolve. I learned to ignore him as he did this. My untrained ears could not hear what he heard.
In spiritual direction I am learning there is space in relationships and particularly in conversation. Just as Dad listened for the results of his voice I listen for the results of silence. Silence can be very productive. As I sit and wait, space is created for the directee to express thoughts or feelings that might not be spoken if my response had been rushed.
I have become aware that I have acted like my words are more important than theirs; I have interrupted and cut people off. Becoming too eager to respond, I do not allowed others to finish thoughts or express feelings that might be said if they felt there was enough space. I have discovered if I wait in silence after someone has spoken they often have more to say. And that “more” can come from a deeper place once they realize there is space to be heard.
God sits in silence and waits for me as well. If I stop filling my prayer time with request after request, and instead become attentive to Him I become surprised at the thoughts that flow forth. I discover an unexpected conversation with an unexpected God.
The “to do” list I am so eager to share with God is often not the dialogue He desires to have with me. I might think God is waiting for a list of my requests before He starts His day. Instead God could be longing to discuss my experiences and particularly my feelings. In that discussion God will allow me to know myself better as well as know Him in deeper ways. I will hear a gentle voice calling me to grow as a result of our conversation.
Silence can seem frightening. It seems so empty, so unproductive. It can bring up thoughts I would rather not think. It is those thoughts that might need to be the focus of our discussion. Accessing a deeper place within myself I realize the initial thoughts are really not the conversation I need to have with God. A deeper conversation can then open up to a more intimate relationship with God.