Congolese-born actress and writer Dora Jejey is spending a Year in God’s Time as part of the Community of St Anselm, based at Lambeth Palace, London. In this post, she explores the scariness of silence, following a retreat in Cornwall.
I recently went on my first silent retreat to an abbey in Cornwall. Months before, I was really looking forward to it. As a natural introvert, I thought, “this is going to be amazing.” But, as the day of departure approached, nerves started to kick in. I wasn’t daunted by not talking. I was afraid of what I would find in my heart once all the distractions and the noise of the city faded.
In short, silence is terrifying. In our frenetic pace of life, silence is unusual and to be avoided at all costs. It’s not just the absence of noise, but also the loss of access to another person’s world through their words and voice. Silence can also be damaging when used as a weapon. In the past, I have had people deploy the “silent treatment” against me as a form of punishment. I know all too well the wounds, the isolation and the eventual demise of a relationship that it brings.
I carried all these anxieties with me on my journey. However, despite them, I committed to making space for God to speak to me. So, as the noise of my outside world dimmed and all artifice removed, I found myself exposed and vulnerable in ways that I never thought possible.
I braced myself.
What came next astonished me.
I re-discovered Jesus – His love, His passion and His relentless pursuit of a people He loves and refuses to give up on. Although I still don’t understand the mystery of the cross, I saw it afresh. I still don’t understand why God would do this. Why would God choose to die in the most horrific and undignified way for me? How do I receive and accept such love in the midst of my inferiority complex? Paradoxically, this gave me the desire to re-dedicate my life to His service. It came as a surprise to me after almost fifteen years of being a Christian.
Most significantly, I found my voice. I found the courage to articulate my innermost desires in words I have never uttered to another soul, for fear of being ridiculed and ultimately rejected.
And in the silence, God heard my voice and He answered.