Taylor University Honors Guild

The Sound of Silence

Jessica Baide (Class of 2016) describes her experience with silence at a monastery in Kentucky:

This retreat could not have come at a more perfect time. The semester was raging on and was beginning to get the better of me. While I consider myself a very busy college student, I usually observe the Sabbath to some degree and set-aside time to ensure that my spiritual life doesn’t suffer at the hands of my stress. However, I was beginning to slip. I had neglected the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate over spring break; instead choosing to fill it with all that I could to “make the most” of my time home. I rushed back to school, with literally not a minute to spare. And now the chaos was beginning to creep in. School began to feel over-whelming, I was skipping small group and compromising on my Sundays. I was even too stressed to take the time out for a much needed and wanted retreat. But once we headed out, I tried to set all of this aside to remember the importance of silence and rest and to observe the lifestyle of a monk.

            College does not hold a reputation as an arena for silence. Even as I write on this very “quiet” morning I hear my upstairs neighbor romping around, a door slam and I glance over at my roommates schedule to see when I will forfeit the solitude of the room. As usual I ignore all of this, but the truly nagging screaming “noise” comes from my planner. If I were to set aside this homework for a moment to think I’m sure it would taunt me saying “you won’t have time for lunch,” “only three hours until you leave for class,” “don’t forget to stop by Ayers and the Union.” Even when I do manage to find a quiet place on campus I find there is no silence.

Escaping to Kentucky required a four-hour car ride, a meditation, and some sleep for these thoughts to play themselves out and exhaust themselves in my head. Then slowly but surely something new crept in. A stranger began to ring in my head. At 5:30 on Saturday morning sitting in a cold van only that voice of silence touched my thoughts. Weird. The ever-present scrolling to do list was finally gone. Not that I really noticed at the time. For once I wasn’t thinking about what I was thinking about. Instead I simply sat there embracing the cold.

Now wouldn’t that be nice to simply be laying here on my couch and let my mind be still. Hold on let me give that a try. Hmm… Not quite. Even as I tried to ignore the obnoxious ongoing clicking of my heater, I hear the dull ringing of the bell tower chiming noon in the background and my mind quickly calculates how much time I have left. As wonderful as it was to get away and finally be silent physically and mentally, that is a practice that is going to take some work. I’d like to be able to get back to that without the prerequisite 4 hour car ride to restore my state of mind. Perhaps someday with some practice a walk to the prayer chapel could suffice. I wonder how long it took the monks to “settle in.” To quit thinking of the enormity of their decision, any loose ends they had left, the consequences of their actions. Surely they don’t change over night. I don’t expect to either.

This retreat showed me a glimpse of that peace that comes from silence and rest. I’ve been chasing that all year. I’ve been trying to read my way through The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan about the practice of Sabbath keeping. But rather ironically I’ve chosen to read it one chapter at a time when I can squeeze it in between my other “restful” practices on Sunday. Somehow I don’t imagine that is how the author wanted his book read. The book is full of great ideas and ways to apply them but I hadn’t really experienced much true rest from reading it. However, this weekend showed me what this book has been trying to get at. I felt God’s rest and peace as I sat in the Monastery.

Simplicity and sustainability have felt like noble concepts, but not very helpful or relevant for me. Yet when I think of the restful days in the Bahamas or the quiet time at Gethsemane I begin to see their value. This theme transcends recycling and really hits me as I look at it as a practice for restoring peace to my daily life. These two escapes have given me opportunities to see what a sustainable pace of life feels like. After the taste of calm this past weekend, I hope to finish this semester peacefully by instilling simplicity and sustainability into my daily life embracing one quiet moment at a time.