By Trish Johnston
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what silence is, how we experience it and what it means in our lives. We live in a world in which silence is often valued. Most of the time, it's not socially acceptable to talk about, for example, which political candidate we support, or our personal faith, or any current event that’s particularly touchy. Often times, we’re scared to be anything but silent about things like our emotions, our need and our wants. By revealing these to other human beings we show our true selves, and are left vulnerable and exposed, a feeling that we as a culture have come to dread.
I want to tell you about my housemates. We all live together in a big old house in the middle of center city. But we’re more than just housemates. We are attempting to live in “intentional christian community,” which is often hard to explain to people when they ask what that means. Some days I say, “When we moved in together we wrote a covenant of how we committed to live with one another.” or I say, “We’re more like a family than a group of roommates,” But today, I’m going to explain it to you like this: we’ve made a commitment to never be silent with each other.
We’ve promised to never let conflicts fly under the radar. When we have a horrible day, we’ve promised to never answer ‘How Are You?’ with, ‘Good!’. We’ve agreed to little by little, day by day, share our souls, to share what’s being said in our hearts, to speak our own personal truths, at all times.
And let me be the first to say, it is HARD. It's often overwhelming to be consistently aware of what is actually going on inside of you instead of glossing over it all like we are accustomed to doing. It can be exhausting to take on the burden of another human being. It can be scary to expose some of the inner parts of your being that haven’t seen the light of day in a very long time.
But being loud can also be, in a way, freeing. To be able to leave behind the facade you’ve had for so many years, to let it all go, is liberating. We each were fearfully made by God in his image. God made us to be the exact human she intended us to be. And when we can get back to that, or closer to it, we truly let God in.
I’ve found that purposefully and intentionally letting God in, letting her be present as we strip down our walls yields some of the most abundant love I have ever experienced. It’s a love that in the everyday feels ordinary, but when I stop and stare at it for a minute I realize its power. I hear the sound waves it is making in my life.
I’m so grateful. For that love. For this year. For the 6 humans I’m sharing it with.
For the noise.
Trish serves as director of communications for the Seamen's Church Institute.