We Suck at Silence

One of my all-time favorite songwriters is a man by the name of Derek Webb. He first achieved success with the Christian folk band Caedmon’s Call and has since gone on to a solo career where he has made a name for himself as a thought-provoking, sometimes controversial singer-songwriter. His most recent project was an instrumental worship album called Feedback, based on the Lord’s Prayer. Even though I love Derek Webb and the music he writes, I also love not spending money. So it took me awhile to decide to buy this album. But as I sat down and finally gave it a proper listen this morning, I realized something.

The vast majority of American Christians are far too loud.

I don’t mean we need to turn our TV’s down or that we need to work on our inside voices – I mean we suck at silence. I know I do. I work in radio. During last week’s Jesus Freaks, I came to a bit with Rebecca where all of a sudden I found myself completely speechless. The dead air might have lasted two seconds, but in radio time, that’s like an hour of nothing. The way I operate is to fill every moment of silence with my voice, a sound effect, or a song. That’s just how you do radio.

But is that how we should do our faith?

In an age when worship music is worship music because of the specific focus of the lyrics, an album like Webb’s–where the only word is a chorus of “Amen”s sung during the last minute of playback–seems like it can’t possibly be a worship album. Are we really worshipping God if we’re not telling him anything? We have to fill the spiritual silence with some Christian chatter. But there is no Christian chatter to Feedback. The closest thing to lyrics are the titles of the songs and the pieces of abstract art paired with each track.

The album is only 36 minutes long, but I found myself getting restless toward the end, because all I was doing was listening to the music and meditating on the few words that made up each title of a song. I wasn’t taking notes. I wasn’t blogging as I went. I wasn’t planning out a talkset on the radio. I was listening. It was hard.

I don’t know why we hate silence and inactivity so much, but we do. I think we’re far too pressured to be “productive” people. We need to get through our Bible reading for the day, say the right things to God, make sure the church is still taking our direct deposit tithe, get to work, serve God with our talents, and get home so we can start the cycle again in the morning. There’s no time to stop and do nothing. But I think every now and then, God wants us to do nothing.


“Be still, and know that I am God.”


So my challenge to you (and to myself) is to spend some time this week not injecting your thoughts, your words, your activity, into a moment of quiet. Embrace the silent stillness. Listen for God’s voice, but don’t try to manufacture something. God doesn’t spend his time shouting profound truths into every moment where nothing else is happening.

Maybe we should take notes.


2 thoughts on “We Suck at Silence

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