Earlier this year, we took down the walls and cubicles in our kids and student ministries suite and created a large, open office. Now, instead of individual offices or workstations for each person, there is a common area with couches, tables, and desks— a shared workspace. It was a bummer losing my office, but I’ve really enjoyed the environment that’s been created. All of us – kids, middle school, and high school staff – are a family, and it’s now easier than ever for us to collaborate and work shoulder-to-shoulder.
Sometimes, though, the constant conversation exhausts me and I need to slip away to somewhere quieter. I’ll go to the room where our middle school services are, the conference room next door, or the secret office on the second floor that nobody ever uses. And when I’m off working by myself, it’s not uncommon that somebody will notice and ask, “Is everything alright?” To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, I’m good.” To which they’ll reply, “Are you sure?” To which I’ll reply, with a bit of an edge now, “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Silence is golden” is no longer a widely-accepted mantra. We’ve become so used to constant activity, constant background noise, and constant engagement of the senses that if we ever find ourselves in a situation that lacks these things we are like fish out of water. If we see somebody sitting alone, outside of the relentless movement of acceptable, fast-paced life, we assume there’s something wrong, and we think that by talking about it with that person, we can instantly fix their problem.
This troubles me. We follow a Savior who modeled extended moments of silent prayer. I can probably count on my finger the number of times that I have sat and prayed for longer than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. When I feel threatened or criticized, I always want to defend myself instantly instead of waiting, thinking, and praying for God to show me the wise response. I, too, have become addicted to the noise, and even when I have to escape it, it’s not long before I return.
I want to teach the students in my youth group that there is a different way to engage life. In small groups, I don’t panic when a leader asks a question that is met with silence. Actually, I find that the answers that follow silence are more genuine, thoughtful, and truthful than the ones that students spout off instantly. Even though I work with middle schoolers, maybe I’ll attempt doing one of those “let’s sit here for 2 minutes in silence” exercises some time soon. It may be a disaster. But I want my students to know that silence is a good thing.
Moses once told the Israelites, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14, ESV). Do we really believe that? Or do we constantly fight for ourselves by talking or by doing? It takes courage to do what’s right. But sometimes, it takes even more courage to sit silently and wait for God to reveal what’s right.
Taylor Bird is the Director of Middle School Ministry at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for just over four years.