Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God.

When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality. 93

It is tempting for me to allow language to become an idol. I love words. Words beautifully constructed have power to move me deeply.

But, I also love silence. I cherish the quiet that occasionally resides at the heart of my being. I value the rich openness that emerges in stillness.

On 8 January 1950 Thomas Merton wrote in his journal,

Preaching God implies silence. If preaching is not born of silence, it is a waste of time. Writing and teaching must be fed by silence or they are a waste of time.

There are many declarations made only because we think other people are expecting us to make them. The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak. (Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and Writer, 396)

Too many of the words I have spoken in the name of God have emerged from clutter and agenda rather than silence and freedom. I have tried to use my words to create a feeling or to produce an outcome. These have been cheap words, occasionally perhaps even abusive words. I have uttered words too often simply because I “think other people are expecting me to make them.”

I long to live in response to the moving of God who instructs me “when to speak and when not to speak.” The discipline of silence opens me to that place within myself where I am responsive to the prompting of God’s Spirit. When my words are “fed by silence” they have greater potential to touch the deep silence that is God’s presence in another person’s life.

What keeps me from entering into the silence from which words of truth may emerge?

How do words that come from silence feel different than those that tumble out of the clutter and chaos of my own needs, wants, and desires?

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