Hello, darkness, my old friend.
Paul Simon

Be still
and know
that I am
Psalm 46:10a

Silence is primarily a quality of the heart
that leads to ever-growing charity.

Henri Nouwen

A few weeks ago, the power went out at my house.  It happened three times, and each outage lasted only about an hour.  The first time, I was just about to brew my early morning cup of coffee, and the lack of timely caffeine was a minor annoyance that lingered into mid-morning.  The second time was around 8:00 in the evening, and I was initially perturbed by the lack of electrical convenience.

But in the darkness with a few flashlights and a few candles, life seemed to slow down a bit. My family and I visited about the upcoming baseball season. We also ate all the ice cream and Italian ice in the freezer because, after all, “if the electricity doesn’t come back on, it’ll all melt!” It was an hour of connection, and we needed it.

The very moment the power returned and all the electronic appliances whirred back to life, I realized how dark and silent it had been, and I was a little disappointed the artificial lights were back on.

When, for the third time, the electricity again disappeared at about 3:00 a.m., I think I was the only one awake to notice it.  Again, the house was quieter than the usual non-silent mechanical hum. And I was delighted to hear a light rain falling outside and to appreciate the peacefulness of natural silence and sheer darkness.

We need moments to unplug and connect person-to-person. We also need time to rest alone in the silence and dark.

Disconnecting from the constant input of the world can seem uncomfortable at first. We come to depend on coffee makers and air conditioning, and I’m not knocking those conveniences.snapseed

But unplugging from artificial power can help us relate more naturally and authentically to the people in our lives. And moments of solitude and silence can help us listen more deeply to the natural world around us and the spiritual world inside us.

This lesson returned to my thoughts when, on Monday, the lighting system in my church’s sanctuary went out just before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The spiritual season of Lent is a time of intentional silence and darkness so that we can experience the gift of connecting more deeply and listening more attentively.

Maybe we can all use a power outage like that from time to time. Maybe we even need to seek them out and turn the switches off ourselves.

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