Silence (and valuing the little things)
Shhhhhhh. Shhhhhh. Shh. Quiet yet? Man, I am CRAVING some silence right about now. One of the vital things this pandemic has robbed us of is silence. Stuck in a house with your whole family? Good luck finding a quiet place to reflect! But this isn't just a coronavirus issue; silence has been lacking in our lives for years, perhaps even decades.
I've written many times about how silence is where God speaks to us, but we'll get to that aspect later. First, let's touch on how silence finds its way into our lives. Silence's biggest entry points into our lives are the "in-between" moments. Moments like the commute to work, the walk across campus to your next class, the few minutes in the morning while you wait for the coffee to brew.
With our lives as busy as they are in this day and age, these "in-between" moments are our main source of silence (without us intentionally including it in our days). But in the past few years, even those moments have been filled with noise. By what, you ask? Depends on the individual, but mostly by our phones.
No, I'm not just going to complain about cell phones and tell you that they're bad, blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong, I love my phone! But I sadly must admit that it has become the default for many of us, myself included. Waiting 5 minutes for your date to get ready? Browse social media. Walking down the street to grab a coffee? In go the earbuds, on comes the music.
There's nothing wrong with listening to music or podcasts or browsing social media, but think of how prevalent it's become. If we have sound constantly pumping through our ears, there is absolutely no room for silence (duh). This is a real tragedy, because those "in-between" moments aren't just good for silence; they're part of what makes life wonderful.
I can't write about this without touching on Simon and Garfunkel's hauntingly beautiful "The Sound of Silence" (also covered shockingly well by Disturbed, of all bands). As much as the song is a meme, it has some lyrics worth mining for our purposes here. Mainly, its description of "people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening."
This is a key point. In my opinion, the song is speaking (prophetically; it came out in 1967) on the dangers of filling every bit of silence with noise for the sake of noise. Let's call this the "background principle." Subscribers to the "background principle" often go through life without a moment of silence. There's always something in the background, whether it's The Office for the eighth time through or some music while you cook.
Again, there's nothing wrong with this in moderation! I'm not saying you can't rewatch The Office or listen to music while you cook. Those are both good things! But when it's all-consuming? When you can't sleep without your show in the background or walk down the street without a beat in your ear? That's a disordered relationship with these media.
We've talked a lot about what we're filling these "in-between" moments with, but what are we giving up by doing so? Let me pose to you a couple of questions, and you can use them to discern what you may be giving up by filling these spaces with sound and screen. Firstly, do you read as much as you used to? If not, why? What fills the time that used to be filled with books?
Secondly, how often do you pray? Do you find it hard to focus on prayer? Have you never felt like you've heard God's voice before, or are you scared about what He might say? Finally, how do you feel? Are you stressed, anxious, or pressured? Do you look back at times when you didn't feel this way? What is causing these feelings? I can't answer these questions; only you (and God) know your story.
There are so, so many little joys in life that can help us brighten our outlook on things. A good book, a cup of caffeine when you wake up, the feeling of a warm summer breeze, the beauty of the early morning dew, the satisfaction of helping someone, the clarity of a late night drive. It goes on and on! These are the things we sacrifice when we don't allow silence into our lives.
And, of course, there's the God piece. As I've mentioned many times before, God speaks to us in the silence. As we read in 1 Kings 19, "the Lord was not in the wind...the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave."
God often speaks in whispers, gentle pushes, and subtle yearnings. Appreciating life's little blessings, creating space for silence, and being willing to listen are the best things we can do to open ourselves up to Him! And if that's not enough for you, it's pretty darn calming as well.
I pray that you will intentionally make some time and space for God to enter into your life in the coming days and weeks. Be well, be safe, and may God Bless you.