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Embracing Silence and Community

Embracing Silence and Community

The Need for Silence

A few years ago during a really busy season in my life I was desperate for silence. The pace of life and ministry, living on a busy city street, and healthcare needs of family members began to wear away at my soul. The endless noise of activity and demands produced a great need to be silent. In fact, our need was so great, that my wife and I decided to move our family to a home in the middle of a field. It was a house located on the property of two great friends, some of the most significant spiritual mentors that my wife and I have ever had. Seeing the need in our life for space, they simply said, “Just come!”

Not long into our time there, the silence and stillness of the property became a healing salve to our wounds. For the first time in a long time we had given ourselves space and permission to care for our own souls, and not just the souls of others. During an impromptu driveway conversation with my mentor and now neighbor, he reminded me that silence was good, but at some point community will be important again.

At the time, it made no sense, because all I could see was my desperate need for space, withdraw, and silence. Hearing the wind, watching sunsets, and being with my family was all that I thought I needed or wanted. Our mentors always being so gracious just gave us space to heal.

“At times the strength of spiritual community lies in the love of people who refrain from getting caught in the trap of trying to fix everything for us, who pray for us and allow us the pain of our wilderness, our wants, so that we may be more deeply grounded in God.” – Rosemary Dougherty

During those two years living in the field we experienced and learned a lot about silence. In silence we…

  • Speak less, and listen more
  • Create space to hear God
  • Quiet ourselves to evaluate our integrity and character
  • Surrender to limits and recognize are humanity

The Need for Community

In April of this past year I buried my Grandfather. In many ways, he had been like a father to me. I lived with him and my grandmother for a period of time when I was younger during a time during which my mom was hospitalized with cancer. His life embodied Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation”. My grandfather had fought in “The Battle of The Bulge”, loved his family, served God, and helped to build a nation.

And now I found myself standing beside his grave, my wife Naomi positioned beside me with Grace my daughter tucked in her arms. Eli, my son stood beside me with one arm on my back, while we watched the soldiers fire a salute, fold the flag and present it to my grandmother. For 67 years she knew the companionship of a loving husband, and now, just memories awaited her as she returned home for the first time alone. As I watched, tears running down my face, Eli began to rub my back and said, “Dad, I love you, we’ll get through this together.”

Since then our family has been committed to intentionally spending time with my Grandmother. She has been deeply grateful for the time, and I am as well. The soft spoken words of a loved one, the enveloping hug from a friend, laughter that leaves you in tears… they are all essential elements to having a healthy soul.

It has only been through these past nine months that I’ve begun to more fully understand what me dear friend and mentor meant when he said that we need both silence and community for a healthy life. In community we…

  • Support one another, spiritually, emotionally, and physically
  • Have the ability to love, and be loved
  • Experience and share joys and laughter
  • Receive space and safety to be ourselves
  • Provide space for others to have good and bad days without it being fatal

Embracing Silence and Community Together

In our fast paced, driven world, I believe many of us feel overwhelmed. Our need for space and silence are probably greater than they’ve ever been. But at the same time, our need for true healthy community has never been greater.

Some of you reading this are living a life way beyond your limits. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically you have extended yourself in unhealthy ways. Because of the season you find yourself in, silence is desperately needed. Others of you may be finding yourself secluded, even isolated. Loss of relationships, busyness of life, or even your position of leadership has left you in a place where you are bankrupt in community. Have you ever felt, “I am known by all, but truly known by very few or even worse – no one at all?” If you find yourself in this place the necessity for deep friends is critical.

These days, I try to structure my daily schedule in such a way that both silence and community are a part of my everyday rhythms. My need for silence before and often after significant meetings or conversations is essential. I’ve found that the emotional drain of ministry requires me to schedule silence and space into my schedule. To be fully present and alive I need it.

At the same time, it’s essential to have life giving relationships around me throughout the day. These people spur me on and make me better spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. They provide laughter and a safe place for me to be myself. I am deeply grateful for their commitment to Christ and to my spiritual walk.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.