Go Silent, Go Dark

Although it's long passed, I want to share with you a practice my husband and I use on Good Friday to deepen our observance of the day. We call it “Go Silent; Go Dark.” It is especially meaningful on the day that we remember the crucifixion of Christ, but it is also a practice that can be implemented at any time of the year to slow your life down, heighten your focus on spiritual things, and increase your openness to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit.

We designate a period of time from two to three hours. During that period of time, we go silent. We don’t speak. We don’t listen to music. We don’t answer the telephone. We also go dark. We turn off all the lights in the house. We don’t run the dishwasher or the washing machine. No TV. No sound system. If you’ve ever participated in a silent prayer retreat with a group, you’ll recognize the pattern. This is a shortened practice that you can do in your own home alone.

Seeking the Light

The first year I practiced this, Bob was in a position that required his presence at work. Our daughter was an adult and also at work, so I was home alone that day. That first time, I wasn’t necessarily setting the time apart solely for spiritual reflection. I was simply practicing a “no electricity” day. I was naturally silent because there was no one else in the house. But I was also going about my usual chores—at least those I could accomplish without electricity.  

I quickly realized that if I wanted to accomplish anything, I needed to go where the natural light existed. To read a book, write in my journal, or pay the bills—yes, we still write actual paper checks for some of our bills—I had to literally seek the light. As I moved through the darkened house in search of the light, I began to reflect on the spiritual connections that the Holy Spirit suggested to me. Seeking the Light became the spiritual metaphor of the day.

Embracing the Wind

On Good Friday of this year, Bob and I set aside the two hours to be an intentional time of shared solitude and spiritual reflection. We had a silent lunch together, enjoyed under the arbor in our back yard. The weather was so beautiful on this particular day that we spent the entire time outside. We never actually had to “seek” the light; we simply enjoyed the profound blessing of basking in the light. We walked the stone labyrinth. We wrote in our journals. I spent time sitting on the swing in the sunlight with my eyes closed, listening to the wind and feeling the breeze on my face.

On this day, as the wind blew and the leaves rustled, I was reminded of Jesus’ description of the movement of the Holy Spirit: The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (NASB).

I have always loved the wind. To stand in the sunlight with the wind on my face makes me feel free. And indeed, we are free in Christ. We can not see him or touch him now; we can’t hold the Holy Spirit in our hands. But the wind calls me to remember that unseen things are just as real as those things which can be seen and touched.

I chose to write in my journal during part of this time. As I wrote, my thoughts went to a question asked recently by a friend. It’s a question that I’ve heard before. Why? Why on earth would Christians call Good Friday day “good”? What could possibly be good about this day?

Learning from Darkness

Apparently, a lot of folks have thought about this. You can Google over 600,000,000 responses to that question in just over one second. I’m sharing the thoughts that came to me as I sat on the swing and reflected on these questions. For me, part of this question is answered by the paradox of “Go Dark to Seek the Light.”

Going dark creates a space, a pause, in my life. Going dark heightens my awareness of my need for light. In the same way, the terrible darkness of “Good” Friday somehow in God’s grace makes the light of the resurrection even more brilliant.

Good Friday serves as a reminder that loss, pain, suffering, death, and darkness are not the end. These experiences are part of life, but they are not the end. Good Friday serves as that paradoxical reminder that darkness and death are defeated in Christ. Life and Light are victorious.

If you can find even once a year to get two hours, I recommend it. It’s a lovely time with the One who loves us most.

Finding a Way

Go Silent, Go Dark is a spiritual practice that will create some time and space for you to reflect on how God may reveal himself to you. At the beginning of this article, I suggested this practice could be used at any time of the year. That suggestion rolls terribly easily off the tongue of an empty-nester.

However, I realize that not everyone has the luxury of two hours in a silent house. Some of you would kill for two hours in an empty house. If you have children of any age at home, your ability to shut down all electricity and all sound for any length of time is severely limited if not totally impossible. One mother I know is only partly joking when she tells her children not to speak in the mornings until they can see the bottom of her coffee cup. We do what we can.

So, if that’s your stage in life, don’t attempt the impossible. And don’t beat yourself up about it either. Do be aware of the necessity of making space in your life and address the inevitable barriers as creatively as you can. I’ve remarked before on the practice of Susanna Wesley, minister’s wife and mother of 9 or 10 living children, who is reported to have simply thrown her apron over her head as a sort of tent. I suppose this reflects the belief that if I can’t see them, they can’t see me, and they won’t know I’m here for the next 3 minutes.

Maybe, it’s not for two hours. Maybe, it’s just 2 minutes in the shower.  Maybe it’s the first 15 minutes of their nap time. Maybe it’s a mile walk or a jog with the baby asleep in the stroller. Maybe it’s the 15 to 30 minutes in the car after you’ve dropped the kids off at school and are on your way to work.

If you can find even once a year to get two hours, I recommend it. It’s a lovely time with the One who loves us most.

Dian Kidd is UBA's Associate Director and has served UBA for almost 30 years. She guides the day-to-day team actions as team leader for UBA's consultant team and oversees daily implementation of data management, communications, strategy and inner-office workings.