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In silence is when you may hear the most
It usually strikes around 9:30 most summer nights when the darkened skies drive my kids and their friends indoors. The energy of the day unabated, they bluster into the kitchen needing snacks to refill their coffers, depleted during the hours they have been working at their part-time jobs or enjoying summertime activities with friends.
The newest selection of songs is inevitably turned way up so the cadence can be heard over the hum of the microwave, the whir of the blender, an explosive Xbox game or their enthusiastic chatter. Once refreshed by food and energized by each other, they make plans. This week they watched the Olympics and ran into town to rent movies. They also organized impromptu sleepovers, dragging out pillows and blankets and laying claim to downstairs couches.
I was certain from my roost upstairs the fun would never end!
Their vigor and defiance over leaving the day behind astounds me, as I seek something far simpler and dramatically different: a blessed silence to match the darkness that seems to wrap me up for a good night’s sleep.
When I was a teenager I promised myself I would never disregard the passionate causes of a teen when I became a parent. I would not grouse at the kids about their loud music and their deal making. I would be more understanding than most and aim never to value winning the argument more than acceptable self-expression, albeit different than my own.
I have not forgotten that commitment I made each time my parents would holler down the hall of my childhood home, “It’s late! Turn off your stereo and get yourself into bed!” I do take an extra breath and pray these days when kid noises push me to the extreme and I must moderate their late-night energy because I have a busy day ahead of me. I ask God to help me respond with grace to the merriment and enthusiasm when I would rather be winding down.
But I do not compromise good sense nor strive to be popular with my kids. I abandoned that endeavor long ago. Neither am I hesitant to turn down the volume amidst strong dissent when good sense and safety dictates we hear what is going on around us.
I have changed, however, and the dynamics occasionally leave me mystified. I have a tough time understanding the words just like my parents did and the music sometimes hurts my ears. Is my hearing changing with age?
Have I forgotten what it is to be loud and expressive or have I at last learned about the absolute beauty of silence?
In his book, “The Plain Man’s Book of Prayers,” William Barclay suggests that one of our greatest faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. “When prayer is at its highest,” he suggests, “we wait in silence for God’s voice to reach us; we linger in his presence for his peace and his power to flow over and around us.”
May I suggest that we take this simple, yet profound idea and apply it liberally to the sum of our lives? When we long for clear thinking and wisdom, when we seek the truth in a situation and the patience to weather whatever may come our way, may we choose to linger in a place that is quiet. Only then will we begin to experience God’s voice.
Do most people actually hear God’s voice? I have never personally heard a sound resembling a voice, although some folks lay claim to such an experience and I believe it to be true. I experience God’s “voice” when peace and deep joy roll over me in waves. When original ideas suddenly come to me. When possibilities and plans rapidly reveal themselves to me. When a flow of energy and hope restores my worried or heartsick soul.
These essential experiences only come to me when I surround myself in silence.
And yet most of us are afraid of silence. We worry about feeling silly. We picture ourselves sitting down, closing our eyes, asking God for wisdom and comfort, then sitting there in dreaded silence, feeling disconnected and alone.
I encourage you to step past the anxiety and choose some moments to be completely quiet this week. Get up early before the kids thunder toward their cereal bowls and cartoons. Delay turning on the TV to learn about the latest Olympic medal count. Take a walk. Write in a journal. Water your fruit trees. Drink a cup of coffee as you check your garden. Kneel at your bedside and pray.
In silence you will find a new song. Feel his presence. Catch a new vision. Fill up for all that may come your way.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.