Week of Silence

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

'1996 Jocassee Quiet Solitude' photo (c) 2007, anoldent - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

"Silence is the language God speaks. Everything else is a bad translation." 
- Thomas Keating

It’s hard to believe that I’m nearing my final month of the biblical womanhood project. I've already decided that the first thing I’m going to do on October 1 is find a hair salon and cut off some of this excess “glory”! (Twelve months is way too long for someone like me to go without a haircut. I look like a character from Willow…or, more precisely, someone whose head is getting eaten by a character from Willow.)  

As I’ve mentioned before, each month of the project I focus on a different theme that is associated with “biblical womanhood,” and the theme for August is silence.  

This is a tricky one because many of the biblical passages associated with silence have been used for centuries to suppress women’s voices and to keep women from assuming leadership positions in the church and society. Also, it is a tragic reality that women across the world are being silenced every day through injustices like sex trafficking, honor killings, religious oppression, poverty, and lack of educational opportunities. This sort of  silence is deeply troubling and worthy of our attention, so I plan to devote much of this chapter to reexamining 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 in light of the context in which they were written and the context in which we find ourselves now. 

However, as I’ve contemplated silence, I’ve also come to realize that it is one thing to be silenced and quite another to deliberately silence oneself.

Some of the most powerful female voices in Christian history—Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisiex—found their inspiration in the quietness of the monastic life and the stillness of contemplative prayer. 

…Which brings me to my week of silence. 

Tomorrow I’m headed to Cullman, Alabama for a three-day visit to St. Bernard Abbey(Yes, they have monasteries in Alabama!) I’ll be participating in fixed hour prayer with the monks, eating in silence, and soaking in some much-needed quiet time on the beautiful grounds there. I’ll continue practicing fixed-hour prayer and lectio divina throughout the week, which will conclude with a visit to a Quaker congregation in Knoxville on Sunday. 

I've already suspended speaking engagements for the month, but in order to totally silence myself, I’ve also decided to take a weeklong break from the blog, twitter, and Facebook—which comes as both a frightening proposition (my stats will bottom-out!) and a welcome relief (I need a break!). Lately I’ve felt a little lost in the daily ups and downs of online media, so I suspect pulling the plug will be a welcome relief for myself, for my family, and even for you. 

In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle said, “I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking beingtime; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

I need some being time, and I’m grateful that the project has forced me into taking some this week. 

In the midst of back-to-school shopping, disaster recovery, or whatever challenges are headed your way this week, I hope you find a little being time too. 

Grace to you, and peace.

See you next week! 


Note: When I return next week, look for responses to your questions for “Ask and An Evolutionary Creationist” and “Ask a Calvinist,” as well as introduction for “Ask a Gay Christian.”

So what do you like to do when you need “being” time? 

When was the last time you totally unplugged from the online world? What did you learn?

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