We grow dependent on background noises. Walkman and MTV become the security blanket of today’s teenager. Young adults graduate to CD’s, and DVD. The more mature adult settles for talk radio or CNN. Talking cars announce, “You left your lights on.” The Internet tells us, “You’ve got mail.” We are on the alert for the sound of a neighbor’s car alarm, an ambulance, fire engine, or police siren. The sound of the rapid transit in the distance, or a plane overhead, can trigger memories of recent vacations or the sense of rush hour commutes. It is hard for me to imagine the silence experienced by the deaf.
My third-grade teacher taught us a lot about silence. When the noise level of the classroom became a distraction from learning she simply stood in front of the class waiting. In her upraised hand, she held a pin. All eyes faced forward, activity ceased, mouths were clamped shut. We all wanted to hear the pin drop to the floor.
Over the years I have learned other lessons about silence. I have learned that you do not need the isolation of a monastery to find seclusion. You can create your own private chamber, insulated with quietness. Your sanctuary can become a refuge for heart-searching and worship. The inner voice of the spirit can speak to you in moments of stillness.
As a young enlisted man in the Navy, I was often assigned a security watch during the early hours of the morning. Quietly I watched as the sun ascended over the horizon. I learned to use this time for quiet reflection and renewal. In the stillness, time stopped, I waited expectantly. Since then I have purposely continued to set aside a quiet time in the early morning to inquire within, a time for contemplative introspection.
I wondered today about listening for the voice of God in those quiet moments. A ticking clock clamored for my attention. Thoughts pounding like waves beat upon my brain. I heard the cat purring, from my lap. I attempted to nurture silence.
I heard the whirring of the refrigerator. My mind was noisy with screaming distractions. Noises of the world, its pressures, tensions, and frustrations all bottled within me. I heard the furnace blower kick in.
Other distractions crowd out the voice of God. Hurt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear, and guilt compete with success, achievement, and pride.
I waited expectantly. In the stillness, I paused. I listened again. I heard in the cat’s purr, a song of praise. The whine of the furnace became a litany, telling of God’s gift of warmth and shelter. The recurring hum of the refrigerator became a hymn telling of God’s provision of food and nourishment. I heard in the whisper of the spirit’s still small voice, “Wait and watch.” As I gave my ear to listen, I received quiet confidence and inner peace.
All was finally quiet. I was again at peace. I tarried. I moved from the comfort of my chair to my knees, as I knew I was entering the presence of a King, yes, the King of Kings. A car door slammed, an engine started, a neighbor left for work. All too abruptly, I was brought back to the ticking of the clock and the clamor of time.
I had transcended the mundane earthly cares to climb Jacob’s ladder into the divine hush of being alone with my creator. In my pursuit of quietness, I had received the promise of His strength to meet the opportunities of a new day.