The Most Brave Thing People May Witness in You Today

by | Oct 12, 2015 | 31 Letters from London

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.


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  1. Pam

    Tried to go to your link to hear you on the radio, but I can’t see where to ‘scroll” on the page. Tried going where the picture of the man is on the right, with a listen button, but nothing comes up… ? Pam

    • Mary Bonner

      Pam, when I clicked the link the window opened and there was a picture w/a man and two women. Under that photo is a fuchsia colored bar. It took a few seconds for the audio to load, but click the arrow in that fuchsia bar and when you hear the audio, you can move the cursor to 31:45 and hear Shelly.

      • Pam

        Thanks, Mary. I’ll try that 🙂

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, this is so meaningful. And I can just see the weight this gentleman gave the seriousness of prayer….he paused and collected his thoughts before the Lord and listened for Him before opening his mouth to speak. We need to pause and listen more, especially to God. Yet people are so jittery and frenzied, they immediately think that silence must mean something is wrong. This selah happened several times yesterday afternoon when Mother and I attended the symphony. I have never witnessed such a long, reverent pause before each individual piece before by a conductor. And I could tell that people were fidgeting. But he waited till every cough was coughed, ever program was rustled, every latecomer was seated, and every whisper was silenced. He waited for perfect silence, and then, for good measure (no pun intended!), he waited seconds longer. One could tell that he, himself, needed to turn inward and gain complete composure and absorb the mood of the music he was about to conduct. I tell you that this was dramatic. His complete silence and stillness only served more deeply to accentuate the raise of his baton and the magnitude of sound that followed. It was brilliant and spellbinding. I shall never forget it. The pregnant pause always proceeds the pregnant sound. One prepares for the other. This reminds me of some great music quotes that I have loved sharing I some of my talks–the “rest” of music and what it means. And think, say, of the magnificence of that dramatic, climactic pause at the end of the Hallelujah Chorus. Without that rich, full pause, the ending would not be nearly as glorious. So you are so right. When we truly pause before speaking, we wait for the very words of God, and only then will our words be glorious and filled with truth. It is brave to pause, to wait on God. Thnk of that…we are waiting for God Almighty to speak. Just. wow!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think being comfortable in the pause communicates a whole lot. I’m learning to bravely embrace it.

  3. Devi Duerrmeier

    I’m going to think on this this week. Swedes are so good about not just talking unless they had something to say. So there were usually looots of awkward pauses when I talked to them, but it made me aware of how much I just like chatter, and that I feel pressure to fill silence with talk. It was a good thing to realize, and to see as well that many of the words uttered in those silences are unnecessary.

    • Shelly Miller

      This is such an interesting perspective Devi, regarding cultural differences. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Leah

    I loved this Shelly! And is Shake It Off really less than 3 minutes? I never knew that about the definition of Selah, which is funny considering I have been finding myself asking for Selah rest lately. I just knew it had something to do with silence. The stop and listen before you do or so. Another completely counter-cultural discipline. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, it’s been a fun word to research. I’ll never read a Psalm with a Selah again without thinking about it longer.

  5. Mary Bonner

    I read this post very early this morning, Shelly. Then I went straight to the book of Psalms and observed the Selah in a way I never had before. Thank you…for the education and the thought provoking words you have here. Psalm 46:1-3 took on a bigger and bolder meaning after reading this.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know, me too Mary. I read the Psalms differently now too!

  6. SunSteepedDays

    I paused today, at the best possible time: right when I went in to my oldest’s room to tuck her into bed and say good night. Next place: prayer tonight. I hope you are getting some rich pauses of your own in the Cotswolds! I’ll be carrying your words about waiting on God so that He can speak *through* us into my writing hours this week, and beyond.

    • Shelly Miller

      This makes me smile, that you are actually applying what you read. What grace! I’m glad the posts are practical. Thanks for being here and yes, I’m having some productive, meaningful writing days, pregnant with the pause!

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