“And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face.”

1 Kings 19:12-13

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

1 Kings 19:11-14

There is extraordinary power in stillness and silence. In a society obsessed with doing, producing and achieving, stillness and silence are certainly not seen as having value. Many modern wristwatches have a preprogrammed function that makes them vibrate on your arm and flash “time to move” or “stand”. We feel guilty – and sometimes are made to feel guilty ­– if we are not busy, if we are not moving or producing.

Spiritual traditions teach us powerful lessons about silence and stillness. The Buddha discovered that he could only find the freedom from suffering he sought when he was willing to sit (for a long time!) in stillness and silence.

In today’s text, we are told that the prophet Elijah experienced wind so great that it broke solid rock, but God was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. God was not in the earthquake either. Then there was a fire. God was not in the fire. Then there was a “gentle whisper” and Elijah put a cloak on his face because God was in the whisper. This still and silent encounter begins a dialogue between Elijah and God. It also marks the beginning of something new for Elijah.

Often it is stillness and silence, in the not-doing and the unknowing, that we experience insight and wisdom. You do not have to be an extraordinary person to have extraordinary encounters in stillness and silence. Stillness and silence will do the work if you make space for it in your life.

In many ways, the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a valuable lesson: we long for and need to be still and sit in silence. An interesting observation is that many people were grappling with fast-paced lives, their careers and state of their relationships when stillness and, for many, silence was thrust upon us. Although not always easy, many have experienced a real sense of their longings and desires. There has been a return to their roots. Priorities have been re-evaluated as the pace of life slowed and stillness and silence became the norm.

Do you make time to be still and sit in silence regularly? What lessons have you learnt in times of stillness and silence?

God of whispers,

You speak to us in many ways but often in stillness and silence. It is in the not-doing and unfilled moments that we can learn extraordinary insight and wisdom. Teach me to be still and silent.

Amen.

 
Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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