I love libraries! But they are not always quiet places, as you may know. The other day while in the library, I picked up the book Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 and found a chapter titled, “Best Places to Seek Silence.” I smiled when I saw the photo of Iona Abbey on the bottom of the page. Now, the Abbey and the island of Iona are indeed beautiful places, but during the height of the tourist season they are not actually the best place to seek silence. And the rest of the year, the noise of the wind does not necessarily make for a silent place. Yet, Iona is truly a place of deep stillness and prayer, and is often called a “thin place” where the veil between heaven and earth is tissue thin.
I have actually spent much time volunteering with the Iona Community and have had the opportunity to lead morning worship in the Abbey. One of my favourite places in Iona Abbey is an old wooden bench hidden in the corner of the cloisters with the words “Be Still” engraved in the wood. The bench is a constant reminder to sit and be still. And this is a most important reminder, especially for those working and volunteering with the Iona community. Life in community is often very busy!
“Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)
Yet there is more to being still than just stopping. The Hebrew definition of this being still is also about letting go and surrendering. How often do we have the courage to “be still” and “let go?”
While preparing for a day of reflection at Crieff Hills last year, I came across a wonderful poem by Edwina Gateley, “Let Your God Love You.” Take time to read this slowly. Listen, and allow it to speak to your heart.
Before your God.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God—
~ Edwina Gateley*
Of course, silence is not only found in Scotland. It is now 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and I sit in the silence of the Cedars, a retreat house at L’Arche Daybreak, trying to finish my thoughts on this post. As I write, I become aware of the silence. I listen. I wait. I realize this silence is not just the absence of noise, it is also presence. It is being at “a place apart,” a place where I leave behind the details of daily life (or at least try to) and come to a place where presence is real. A place of prayer and a place of community. Down the hall is the room where the author Henri Nouwen lived during his time at Daybreak. If you are familiar with his writings, you will know that Henri wrote so powerfully from the heart to remind us that we are loved by God and we are God’s Beloved.
Where do you go to seek silence? What speaks to you of God’s love? An early morning walk, a garden, a quiet snowfall or a child’s smile? We all have moments of silence, but we don’t always recognize them.
Where do you find silence in your life? Please share your experiences and start the conversation, even just a word or two is fine. I look forward to reading your list of “Best Places to Seek Silence!”
*Printed with Permission of the author. To learn more about Edwina Gateley, visit her website at: edwinagateley.com. You can also watch a beautiful version of this poem on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwLiSPJ43TE
Photos are from René Tate Photography (www.ReneTate.com), used with permission.