The Terror (and Wonder) of Silence

What would you do if you had one hour or one day of total silence? No books, no music, no phones, no computers, no TV, no movies, no conversation, no stimulation — nothing but the inner whisperings of your soul? What would you do? What would you think? What would you feel?

I know what I felt the first time I entered extended silence almost 20 years ago. It was terror — and wonder. Terror at facing all that I had been running away from. Terror that I would be overwhelmed and undone. But the terror turned to wonder. God met me unexpectedly in the silence in a way that has marked me forever.

Silence has now become part of my life and work. When others ask me what I do, I am starting to tell them that I take men into silence. I know it will get odd looks or an awkward pause in the conversation. We know what doctors, lawyers, and CEO’s do. We know what plumbers, electricians, and contractors do. But who does silence? The question is an oxymoron. You don’t do silence because you don’t do anything.

Or so it seems.

When a man comes to me for spiritual direction, we start our time in silence. For most, I suspect it feels mildly awkward or really uncomfortable. Men feel at home when they plan, program, set goals, and get things done. But silence is a tectonic shift in the other direction. Yet over time, they come to feel more at ease with silence and then begin to love it. I have even had men tell me that they could spend the whole hour in silence. It’s so liberating for them. How could this be?

The answer is simple: God meets us in the silence. That’s the wonder. But there is a detox that must happen first: pulling away from the demands of work, refusing the lure of social media, and turning off the noise of the world. Once that happens, there is a further detox: we face the incessant agitation in our souls and the running that pushes away confusion and sorrow. We come to a jarring stop. For a moment, a yawning terror threatens to swallow us in our own nothingness.

But if we will sit in the silence long enough, something happens. It’s different for each person, but something does happen. The detox and the terror open into wonder. We feel we are not alone. There is another presence that has perforated all of reality, and now we can touch it. 

It is the presence of the One who loves you and has known you before birth.

It is the living God — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is mystery unsearchable, awe undefinable. 

To touch His presence starts the wonder. To sense Him touching our souls inflames the wonder.

And then it hits us. We were created for this, yet we have been running from it all our lives. 

I am convinced that the great healing of our souls, the mystery of our true identity, the unveiling of our life’s purpose, and the final surrender to love can best happen in the silence with God. Perhaps that’s where they can only happen. But I know this: I am on the journey to enter the silence and lead others with me. I hope you can find a way to enter as well.

For more information about the spiritual direction I offer, go to

For more information about the day of silence retreat, go to

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