Five Days of Silence: An Exercise in Unplugging

Sometimes it takes a little unplugging to see exactly how plugged in you are. (cc image courtesy Marcus Hansson via Flickr)

By Laura Truax

[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly reflections, called Deep Down Things, published on Wednesdays.]

I just returned from five days of silence. Utter silence. As in: No people, no phones, no Internet, no media of any kind; except a few verses of scripture and several scribbled prayer requests.

I’m not planning on dropping off the grid anytime soon or rising up against “the man” by putting away my smartphone, ipad, powerbook, ipod or kindle. I’m not about to eliminate the hours I spend reading newspapers, magazines and books; much less the precious hours of facebooking, tweeting and emailing. However, even such a small break as five days makes a difference in how I interact with all of it.

The first difference being that I actually think about it before I check my email or log in to Facebook. I’m aware—for at least the first week or two—that merely by clicking on my email, glancing at the recent posts in my newsfeed or turning on the chat feature, I am making a decision to spend the next half hour—or much longer—responding to the concerns I didn’t even know I had.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m in full-time ministry. Responding to concerns of others are the bread and butter of many a pastoral day. Post-silence, however, I’m more aware of how banally, how consumptively, how carelessly I spend much of my energy and time.

It makes sense that the Amish have been clued into this technology consumption for a long time. “Virtual Lives” is the subject of the newest issue in Baylor University’s Christian Ethics series. It’s a great issue devoted to the question of how our real-life relationships are being framed by our virtual ones. Including excellent worship materials and small group study helps.

Keeping the Sabbath

You don’t have to be silent for an extended period to realize the needless noise of our lives, but it does help open your ears, so to speak. Sabbath-keeping is another way to listen to the deeper silence as well. Increasingly people with real lives (i.e. non-Luddites) are discovering the restorative rest of the Sabbath. An excellent guide to this practice is Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives. One of the best books written on Sabbath rest is written by one of the most productive leaders of our day, Bread for the World founder, Wayne Muller. An excerpt from Sabbath, along with simple actions for keeping the day sacred, are also available online.

In congregations that are as stressed, as over-involved and over-extended as many of ours, it can be a life-giving example for leaders to disengage. Try it!

Rev. Laura Sumner Truax is the senior pastor at LaSalle Street Church, a non-denominational church in downtown Chicago with a long tradition of uniting individual faith in Christ with God’s call for justice and compassion lived out in the world. She is a teaching pastor at the University of Chicago and writes and speaks frequently on the role of the church in the world and is currently working on her first book tentatively titled, “You don’t have to live like this!”

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