The Sounds of Silence

I don’t like silence. Sitting in a quiet room makes me anxious and restless. Silence screams at me. As a teacher, the worst days of the semester are days when I give exams, because the room is completely quiet and I have to stay in that for an hour. It feels like an eternity. I have a tendency to hide in noise. As long as there is noise around me, I don’t have to be inside my own head or focus on feelings. I can compartmentalize things, keep the emotions in check, and focus on what is rational and logical.

But, I’m learning that there is a time and place for silence. There is an appropriate time to get away from the noise and to just sit in the silence. I don’t like it, but it is necessary. Silence causes me to stop and focus; it forces me to think about what I’m thinking about.  When I get away and just listen to the silence, I realize how noisy I am on the inside.  I get a good look at my worries, my cares, my priorities; I stop and realize that I never stop.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Other versions use the phrase “cease striving.”  For someone who likes to believe she is in control, this is difficult to do.  If I am physically being still, then I tend to focus on what is not getting done because I’m not doing it.  To be still internally is even harder.  It requires the full acknowledgment that I am not in control of anything.  Internal stillness, to truly cease striving, means I have to trust that Someone else is in control of what is going on in and around me; I have to acknowledge that I am not in control and rest in the One who is in control.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is on the run.  He is hiding from those who seek to kill him, and he flees to a cave on Mount Horeb, where God comes to talk to him.  If you are familiar with the story, you know that a great wind comes, followed by an earthquake, and then fire.  Yet, none of these are the ways in which God speaks to Elijah.  He does not speak in loud, booming tones, and in ways that would cause fear.  Instead, “after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”  A still, small voice speaks to Elijah.

The same still, small voice speaks to me today.  It comes in many forms — the gentle encouragement from a friend, the shoulder to cry on, a verse brought to memory, or the words to a song that bring Truth and comfort.  He speaks in quiet, gentle tones; tones that I can’t hear if everything inside of me is noisy, or if I’m staying busy to avoid the silence.  To hear Him speak, to feel His comfort, I have to stop.  Stop trying to find approval from those around me; stop trying to earn His favor through good works.  Cease striving.  Sit in silence and hear Him say, “I love you.”  Feel His love as bright and warm as the sunshine.

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