Space For The Glory Of Nothing

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still” (Ex 14.14).

When I think about things in life that feed my soul (aside from spiritual disciplines & time with family and friends), my top 3 in no particular order would be:

  • Reading fiction
  • Writing
  • Silence

(Honorable mentions: coffee, music, a good dark beer, and Friday Night Lights…)


But anyway–I’ve been thinking a lot about that third one, silence. On one hand, I love silence. I’m a night owl and I sit up late at night sometimes and soak up the glory of nothing. It’s so very good for me. (I once told my wife that silence was my favorite sound. She said, “Gee, thanks.” I’m great with words sometimes.)

But, it’s more complicated than that. Because like any good complicated human being, I also hate silence. And I bet you do too.

What I mean is, there is some kind of deep resistance to the very idea of it. I love it, but I still have to make myself do it. I have to come to some kind of mini-burnout or have a knockdown drag-out with myself to actually sit still and be quiet for more than 20 seconds.

So why are we so uncomfortable with silence? And I don’t mean just the absence of sound, but the absence of activity. Just being and not doing. I mean, I can’t even sit at a red light for 5 seconds without feeling the urge to pull out my iPhone. I need help…my therapist wife even says so. But let’s move on from that, shall we?

I bet I could convince both of us that we need more silence in our lives, and you might even nod your head in agreement. But actually doing it? That’s a different story. So what’s underneath our aversion to silence? I’ve got three ideas:

1) Silence is awkward. And, well–let’s be honest. Awkwardness is the cardinal sin of our culture. (Awkward silence, anyone?) Is there a quicker way to feel ostracized from “the crowd” than being awkward? (Unless you’re the really funny, cool kind of awkward, but that’s a different topic.) This awkwardness makes silence extraordinarily uncomfortable. I recently watched a short film where the first 15 seconds was an old woman staring silently at herself in a mirror, and I was like “Agghh! Someone do something about this! Do you not realize how uncomfortable this is?”

2) Silence is unproductive. Busy, busy, busy we are. And busy=important. Who doesn’t want to be important? You know what the problem with sitting still is? You don’t get anything done. Nothing marked off your to do list. What a waste!

3) Silence is exposing. You know what happens when I sit completely still and try to focus on doing nothing? Things come up. Mainly, things I’m trying to avoid. Things I’d rather not think about or deal with. Things I’m putting off. The Holy Spirit starts moving His finger around in my heart. And then I’m like, “You know there was a reason I was avoiding that…”

But despite all these reasons that make silence uncomfortable, I believe it is something we must fight for. And fight for it we must, because everything is working against us. For most of human history there was space carved out for silence: the day would end, the sun would drop, people would go to bed and all would be quiet. But now there is noise everywhere. TV, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, your phone, the interwebs–these things never have to turn off if you don’t want them to.

But again, I don’t think you will pursue the discipline of silence because you realize you need to. Logic might make you think, but emotion makes you act. Unless you actually want it you’ll never genuinely pursue it. But how do we actually want it?


What if I put my Men In Black flashy thing in front of your face and made you forget everything we just talked about. And then I took off my glasses and said, “Hey, I bet you’re tired, aren’t you? If not physically, then soul tired.”

And you would reply, “Uh-huh.”

And then I would say, “Do you feel frazzled all the time? Like life is an unending series of distractions vying for your attention, and you are exhausted from trying to keep up?”


And then imagine that I proceeded to tell you that God has something for you. A gift–something to restore your soul. To remind you that you need a break and that you’re not self-sufficient. That things can get done tomorrow. That He will use this gift to speak to you, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable. That through it He will teach you that you are more than what you accomplish…”

Would your mouth be salivating yet?


So I say we try to reframe silence. That we see it as the sobering and centering treasure God intends it to be.

The discipline of nothing. Such a beautiful idea.

And over time, I hope that we learn to press into the awkwardness, to embrace the glorious lack of productivity, and realize that if things keep coming up it’s because they actually need to be dealt with. And that doing so is actually a good thing.

What a novel idea–that what God wants for us is actually for our good.

I love what John Wesley said:

“Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow…else you will be a trifler all your days.”

And well, who wants to be a trifler?

Let’s make some space for the glory of nothing in our lives. Deal?

This post was inspired by the Luminous Project, a conference for creatives and communicators involved in faith-based work. For more about it, check out the Luminous website. If you’re interested in attending the event, use the promo code “luminousLOVE” (case sensitive) to get 30% off. Sign up here.

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