This is day 13 in a new series: 31 Letters from London. In October, I’m doing something a little different and writing to you about the realities of life as an expat; finding the nearness of God through random experiences with new culture. It’s important to begin here and find the collection of letters here. We’re breaking for Sabbath every Sunday.
As I focus on writing chapters of my book in the Cotswolds this week, I’m sharing Daily Thoughts originally broadcast on Premier Christian Radio. You can listen to it here. Scroll to minute 31:45 to hear me.
Recently, I was seated in the Royal Albert Hall with about 6,000 people from around the world.
H and I were attending the Alpha Leadership Conference when Nicky Gumbel invited one of the speakers, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, to pray and release attendees for lunch. Everyone present stood to their feet as Cantalamessa bowed his head.
And we waited in that posture of submission in silence for three minutes.
Three minutes is the length of Taylor Swift’s hit, Shake it Off and longer than it will take you to read this blog post.
What is he doing? People wondered. Is he okay? Why isn’t he saying anything? The longer the silence lingered, the more people began to fidget, look at cell phones, lift their heads and glance sideways at each other.
Father Raniero was practicing the Selah; something I assume he does often as a Catholic priest.
The Amplified Bible adds pause and think calmly about that every time Selah appears in the text. In other translations, Selah is defined as stop and listen or to measure or weigh what is being said.
Father Raniero was weighing the meaning of what was being asked of him in that moment. He was practicing the pause and listening for God’s voice before doing something that is most likely second nature for him.
Mark Twain said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
I think of how many times I’ve been asked to do something I’m good at and breezed right through without stopping to listen first. Or felt the weight of silence in a conversation and filled the awkwardness with chatter.
Three minutes of silence became the most profound statement of the conference for me. The long pause before reciting a prayer reminded us that we wait on God not so we can speak for him but so He can speak through us.
Pausing might be the most brave thing people witness in you today.
It’s why He says, Be still and know that I am God.