Sitting in complete silence is like standing with your back to the woods at night.
I find my heart racing at speeds that should only come with fear and my mind immediately seeks out my insecurities. Why is it we are so bad at being alone with ourselves?
When I was in Psychology class at Liberty my professor once challenged us to go somewhere by ourselves, with no people anywhere around us, phones turned off and not even our own voices as background sound, and just sit for a few hours.
Easy. It will be nice to get away from everyone for a while any way.
Those were my first thoughts.
I remember hiking up the mountain behind our dorms and sitting on a stump in the woods with the intention of doing just that. The world around me was quiet, apart from the occasional breeze and, while it was peaceful at first, it eventually became incredibly unnerving. By the end of the first hour I felt like crying, running, checking my phone, and screaming. There is nothing like silence to reflect what you really think about yourself back at you. There is nothing like silence to make you scared to be left alone in life. There is nothing like silence to make you want to do anything and everything but just sit there.
I hated it.
I hated being with myself.
I hated myself.
I can’t say that this was the first time I realized this, but this was the first time I wasn’t able to distract myself from it with something or someone else.
The second hour was full of shortcomings, mistakes, missed opportunities, sadness, bitterness, fear, and self-loathing. There was so much about me that I found annoying and unworthy. I was a coward, I was overweight, I hadn’t applied myself in school, I was working a lame job, I was single, I wasn’t funny, I was a bad Christian…. I was the type of person I wanted to avoid.
I cried a lot during this hour.
I cried until I was numb.
I cried until I could no longer hear my thoughts and felt nothing but emptiness.
The third hour was full of real silence. Real silence and staring. Staring at nothing and everything all at once.
I had faced myself. I had been tried, I had been tested, and I had been found wanting…
I remember looking up at the sky for a long time during this hour and wondering if God was watching me. I mean, really watching me; Studying me and wondering if He had made a mistake.
I sure thought He had.
The sun was setting at this point and it was growing too cold to sit still any longer. I didn’t miss seeing people anymore. I didn’t long to check my phone or distract myself. I didn’t wish to go back to my dorm; But it was time to go and so I got up and started walking.
I wish I could tell you I found my purpose during those hours. I wish I could tell you that it ended up being the most comforting and peaceful time of my life and that it left me feeling inspired and refreshed. I wish I could tell you that I couldn’t wait to do it again.
None of those things were true.
In fact, it seemed like it had done more damage than it had done good as I dragged my feet through mud and pushed my way through thorns on the way back down the mountain side. Why on earth had my professor given us this stupid challenge?
It didn’t strike me until much later that at the end of those hours I had forgotten about everything and everyone else and had looked up.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized I needed more silence.