“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10ff)
The Sunday before last, our church worshipped slightly differently from usual. I arrived at church a few minutes before the start of the service and noticed: there was no guitar, no percussion and no keyboard. Not even a ukulele! Just a solitary microphone on its stand. I lead worship from time to time but had declined the request to play guitar as it was my daughter’s birthday. I’ll level with you: I felt uncomfortable. I scurried around the building looking for something I could strum as an accompaniment, but I found nothing.
I still felt uncomfortable during the first song, but by the second song I’d found my voice and I was singing freely, as were the others in the congregation. People started songs spontaneously from where they were sat; others read scriptures or prayed aloud. It felt like, as a church, we were worshipping as a community. And in the pauses, in the gaps between songs, we could dwell and contemplate. We could listen to God.
I’m terrible with silence and with pause. I have music playing, I have my phone to hand, I am buried in a newspaper, but when do I ever just stop? And even in church – do we leave enough silence? What’s worse: to risk a little awkwardness from time to time, or to program God out of our meetings?
In the Psalms (songs and poems written by King David amongst others), the word “selah” appears on many occasions. We don’t know for definite what selah means – it could simply be a musical direction, but the Amplified Bible translates it as “pause and calmly think about that”. We had plenty of selah moments the Sunday before last. Amongst the quiet babble of toddlers, between the singing: we had a chance to pause and think.
Silence is a commodity to be nurtured, cherished and protected. These selah moments are not purely reserved for church services. I can, and should, pause more often. I can choose to put my phone away, to leave my headphones on the shelf, to stare out of the window of the train rather than tackle the newspaper puzzle page. Because when I do, I digest and I listen. And in doing so, I feel better equipped to deal with the stresses of the everyday, and more aware of God’s presence.
The Gateway Church