The following is a guest post by Stephanie Bennett (ponderinggrace.blogspot.com).
Ask any woman in society today how she’s doing, and most often she’ll respond, “Busy!” Forget “joyful,” “productive,” “blessed,” and so on. Career women, stay-at-home moms, college students, and senior adults are pulled in so many different directions that their first response is, “Busy.”
I myself find the word rolling off my tongue as I juggle a full-time job, marriage, and new mommyhood. And of course we spin the plate of “faith” along with all those titles. In all the chaos and busyness, there’s a lot of noise: the phone rings, the television blares, the computer hums, text messages beep, traffic buzzes, the washing machine whirls, children sing (and sometimes whine), friends chatter, sirens scream.
Where’s the quiet?
Unfortunately in our society today, it’s probably the most rapidly declining commodity. It’s the rare gem amid the rubble of living, yet for some it’s the awkward silence that frightens us…still all the more beckons us. We’re raising a generation that stumbles around silence, not knowing anything else to do but to snuff it out. So we turn up the radio in our car, and we let the television drone on in the background, and we crank up iTunes in our office, and we mindlessly ramble meaninglessness so as to not deal with silence.
And in the plate spinning and circus juggling and mind numbing and noise blaring, we lose sight of the eternal value of quiet. To be still. To listen. To be wrapped up in silence.
Through the whisper of a summer breeze in the trees, the sunlight cast across toy-strewn floors, or the still moment of silence that hangs heavy in the air and in our hearts, there we find our God. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying we can’t find God in the busy, chaotic, noise of life. But too often He gets forced into the mold of our routine, and we crowd Him into our conveniences, rather than letting Him invade our agenda.
Furthermore, I believe meeting God in the silence is biblical. Remember Elijah’s great victory on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal (see 1 Kings 18). A huge display of the magnificent power of God as fire fell from heaven amidst the groanings of the people uttering empty pleas to a make-believe god. I’m sure it was quite a noisy sight.
But a few verses later we find Elijah on the run from Jezebel, crumpled in a cave in fear.
“And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
In the obvious, thunderous places, Elijah didn’t find God. Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Ironically, it was the low whisper that caught Elijah’s attention, and there he heard the voice of God.
The prophet Isaiah also understood this truth:
“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (32:17)
Let’s dig further into this passage. Look back at verse 9:
“Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech. In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come. Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones; strip, and make yourselves bare, and tie sackcloth around your waist. . . . For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (vv. 9-11, 14-18)
The context of the quiet and rest found in verse 17 is the result of complacent women being stirred to action. I have a feeling that these women weren’t just sitting at home all day watching soap operas. Much like women today, they were probably incredibly busy, spinning lots of plates. But they were deemed complacent about the things of the Lord. Frantic and frazzled about things that didn’t matter, yet lazy for eternal treasures. Wasn’t this true of Mary and Martha? Martha hurried about the kitchen, while Mary sought quiet rest at the feet of Jesus.
Just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we aren’t complacent. Too often we cloak our spiritual apathy with the designer dress of activity. We’re involved. We’re committed. But we’re pulled way too thin, and we can’t remember the last time we enjoyed silence in the presence of the Lord.
This is hard for us because God’s economy is so contrary to the ways of this world. Advancement in righteousness comes peacefully through time spent alone with God. It’s not a frantic, hurried pace that impresses God. Richard Swenson wrote, “We’re all running, but God’s not running after us. He knows that speed does not yield devotion. The presence of God is in inverse proportion to the pace of our lives—meditation, wisdom, and worship are slow, mellow, and deep.”
Notice the reason for the change from complacency to quiet resting places in Isaiah 32: “Until the Spirit is poured upon us…” The shift from our frantic pace to the rest our souls long for is found through the lavish gift of the Holy Spirit. And this gift births within us peace and quietness and trust.
“It first produces quiet; yet how different is this quiet from the slumber and confidence of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were lulled into a false security! This is a quiet of blessedness, flowing from righteousness, a supreme reposing in the wondrous grace of God. Together with this quiet there is a certainty, so different from the confidence or certainty of the careless women of Zion, for this certainty is founded upon the sure promises of God; it is the work of His own Spirit. And this condition will endure forever.”
Now I know many of you are wondering how in the world you could ever manage to find quiet in your hectic days. Laundry piles up, children demand your attention, dinner won’t cook itself, and you’re in a covenant relationship with a man you haven’t spoken to for longer than two-minute snippets.
Call me naïve or maybe even idealistic. But I believe we can carve silence into our day. It is said that Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, spent one hour each day in prayer. She gave birth to 19 children, and ten of them lived past the age of two. If she couldn’t find a quiet spot in her home to pray, she would pull her apron over her head as a sign that the children should not disturb her.
If we can teach our children to eat solid foods and tie their shoes and even surf the web on our smart phones, then we can certainly teach them to observe periods of silence each day. Whether it’s putting your infant or toddler in their crib or playpen with some toys or teaching your children to play alone in their rooms, I believe we’re capable of instilling this type of discipline in our children. We expect other things from them, many of which won’t matter in eternity. So why not teach them now the priceless beauty of silence?
Or maybe it’s during their nap, or maybe you teach them about a special spot where you spend time in quiet reflection. Regardless, not only will your soul be refreshed, but the imprint will be burned on the hearts of your children as they see you setting aside time for silence. Turn off the noise, and attune your heart to hear the voice of God.
“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa