Imperfect Silence

“The trouble is, as soon as you sit and become quiet, you think, Oh, I forgot this. I should call my friend.  Later on I’m going to see him.  Your inner life is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.”  ~ Henri Nouwen[i]

It’s not just me? That makes me so glad.

I don’t do perfect. I especially don’t do silence and solitude perfectly.  My brain is noisy and has a hard time slowing down or letting go.  People recommend having a set time each day to practice silence and solitude.  Mornings are recommended.  I love the idea of waking up early before everyone else in my household.  Just me and God.  But somehow, on the rare occasions that happens my kids seem to know.  They want to wake up early too.  And who am I kidding?  This mama has a hard time sleeping and a hard time waking up.  So right now, I’m not stressing about finding the right early morning time.  I’ll take my time when I can get it.

Practicing Quiet isn’t something I feel guilty about when I miss it. No, guilt doesn’t come into play because I need it.  I want it.  It’s not about something that I think I should do. I’m always longing for more.

I suppose it could be easy to get addicted to contemplative practices for the sake of the practice itself or for a sense of accomplishment and order. But the practices of Quiet are not the point.  So I don’t worry that my silence is never completely silent. That my brain likes to wander.  That my meditations aren’t perfect.   I’m learning.  Perfection isn’t the point.

Making space is the point.

Showing up is the point.

Learning to listen is the point.

Henri Nouwen says:

“In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.  Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied.  In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”[ii]

Quiet helps me to make that space for God and helps me to notice what God might be trying to say to me.

I want to learn to balance stillness and doing; solitude and connecting; reflecting and learning. I have a hunch that balance is the wrong goal though.

Silence replenishes me– heart, mind, and soul–as I tackle the daily responsibilities that come with this life that is mine. My time in Quiet reminds me that in the midst of my suburban, noisy, child-filled, toy-strewn, laughing, crying life—I know in my whole being that God is with me.


[i] From Henri Nouwen’s article Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry,

[ii] Id.


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