One of the blessings I’m experiencing in my life right now is something we’ve encouraged the folks in our church to become involved with: Circles. The idea behind Circles is that you find two other people you know or perhaps that you’d like to know, and invite them to join you on a regular basis, just to focus on spiritual issues and the Christian journey. Not a book club, although you might talk about a book; not a bible study, although the bible is no doubt a huge part of any discussion. But the primary reason for getting three people together in a Circle group is to talk about life and my faith journey.
I’m in a Circle group with two other guys; guys who are very different than me. We meet once a week for about 45 minutes. No topic. No agenda. Just checking in, and how is your walk with God, what have you noticed this week, what’s been challenging this week. It’s an opportunity to be real, and honest about what’s going on. Trust, of course, is essential. What we say in the Circle stays in the Circle.
But I’ve noticed that I sometimes have a bit of a challenge with ‘silence’ in my Circle. We meet pretty early in the morning, and many people aren’t that awake or talkative in the early morning. What I’ve noticed about myself is that when my two buddies seem particularly quiet, I tend to fill the blank spots in our conversation with noise of my own. In fact, for much of my life I’m afraid I have been a sort of ‘fill-in-the-blank’ kind of person when it comes to conversations.
By definition, a conversation is not a monologue. When our Circle group hangs out together, I enjoy hearing two other brothers talking about their journey. I’m assuming they enjoy hearing my story, as well. But do I always have to fill the quiet, wordless moments in our Circle group with pithy sayings, or some ‘amusing’ (at least amusing to me) story about a happening in my life?
I think one of the gifts my Circle group has given me is the noticing that when others are not talking, it does not represent a signal that I am God’s appointed, anointed spokesperson to fill-in-the-blanks. I often wonder how Jesus and his disciples interacted in moments not recorded specifically in scripture. What of the times when Jesus wasn’t talking, when he wasn’t teaching, but rather he was living life among them. Were there times, I wonder, when they wanted to ‘be still, and know that He is God?’ Or were they so oblivious to what must have been His occasional need to just be silent and not talk that they filled those quiet opportunities with banal banter? While we just don’t know the answer to that question about the disciples … I’m highly suspicious about my own vulnerability to the temptation of interrupting the quiet in conversations.
Silence in the quiet moments of doing life together with others, is not empty space to be filled. Quiet represents a filling of space in and of itself, it seems to me. You just can’t see it, or hear it. Silence contains moments. Opportunities to actually think … before speaking. Think instead of speaking. Prov. 17:28 says it this way: “Even fools are thought wise, if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” In my circle group, I’ve got to circle back on that verse more often, I think. How about you?