A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

But, Maybe... They Don't Have to Talk?

Last weekend our family went to visit my grandmother who lives an hour and a half away. We made a couple of days of it and stayed in a hotel overnight. The next day we had lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant where the food was absolutely wonderful!

As the six of us sat at the table and ate and talked and laughed (Our family laughs a lot. Thanks be to God!), an elderly couple was seated near us at approximately the same time as we were. While I was not trying to be nosey, I noticed that they said nothing to each other; and they barely spoke two words all throughout lunch.

This is not the first time I have observed such a thing in a restaurant, but it struck me in an unusual way that day. At first, I was thinking to myself that it was so sad that these two people, who I imagined were married to each other for so many years, had nothing to say to each other; but as I thought more on it later in the day, I realized that, perhaps I might be misinterpreting their silence. What if the quiet did not reveal a lack of relationship between two people, what if the silence instead showed a stable marriage in which two people had grown so accustomed to each other's presence, that there were times when the clutter of words was not needed? What if their meal with few words was a testament to a marriage grounded in love and care?

We live in a noisy culture. We have a hard time with silence. Young people drive down the street with the music blaring so loudly from their cars, that everyone around them can hear it, even when the windows are up! The only kind of restaurant where one can find quiet music playing is where the entree will cost a minimum of $25.00. Even in worship silence is problematic. In a previous church I served, we would have a moment of silent prayer each Sunday. Over the years I was approached by more than a few people expressing to me how uncomfortable they were with that part of worship. They found silence so difficult.

There are times when silence is loud; and in some of those moments, silence is deafening because it is profound: at a memorial service, after some meaningful words, just before a father walks his daughter down the aisle, or standing before the casket of a loved one. Silence is loud when presence is all that is needed.

And perhaps, such profound silence is revealed when two people who have been with each other through thick and thin, who have experienced great joy and deep sorrow, are simply content to be present with each other over a meal. In such moments, silence is indeed golden.


Anonymous said...

What a terrific post.

Don't you think there are times when silence is noisy in its meaning?

Allan R. Bevere said...


Yes, silence can be noisy in its meaning. I think of Elijah and the still small voice. I like the NIV rendering that Elijah heard the "sound of sheer silence."


Art said...

I've seen that too and my wife and I have commented on it. We cannot imagine eating a meal together without conversation. I find it sad - profoundly sad. Perhaps what you say about the years together is true but, in many cases, I think your first imppression is probably more accurate. And that is why I find this so profoundly sad.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I have no doubt that there are cases where what you say is correct; but I also think that we have been acculturated into believing that silence is not the norm; thus we automatically assume that silence is an indicator of something wrong. I don't think we should assume this.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think it is good when one can just kind of be in a kind of awe in the other one's presence. Or just with a quiet love, as you say here. That is a challenge for me, because I am normally a person who likes to talk and converse.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I have trouble with silence because I, too, like to talk; but I think there is a kind of joy we can have in the midst of silent moments. Perhaps sometimes we miss that joy because we are too uncomfortable with it.