Talk is cheap. E-mail is even cheaper. Maybe that’s why we’re inundated with trash talk and junk mail (of both the snail variety and it’s fleeter “e” relation).
Silence – now that’s precious. Silence is golden.
It’s also rare. You don’t realize just how rare until your one-year-old falls asleep in the stroller and you’re looking for a quiet place to park where she can keep sleeping. Then you become acutely aware of the noise constantly swirling around us. Like the truck rumbling down the street sounding like an earthquake on dually wheels. The guy behind you yelling into his cell phone with all the bombastic subtlety of a discount warehouse commercial – we can all hear you now. Radios blaring from open windows, bass speakers thumping and rattling in the trunk of a passing car – there’s no end to it. Trying to find a place of peace and repose is tougher than deciphering instructions for all those ‘easy assembly’ children’s toys on Christmas morning.
Everywhere you go something is trying to break into your consciousness. And I’m not talking toddlers. Those are the good interruptions, things like: “Dada, acorn!” Those aren’t really interruptions at all. They’re gifts — surprises reminding us of the wonders of God’s creation.
But being open to the serendipity of God’s presence is something different from a TV playing commercials while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Same thing at Wal-Mart. Now there are even TV’s at gas pumps! Our wifi-world is awash in a 24-7 glare of flashing lights and chiming ring-tones. There’s a constant barrage of pure distraction coming at us from all sides, all the time.
We need quiet. It’s important. Physical quiet is part of how we achieve inner-quiet — the quiet of the soul that refreshes our spirit, centers us, and keeps us on the path, preparing us to fight a new battle on the new day. We need the kind of quiet Jesus sought. Scripture tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening He was there alone.” Mt 14, 23. And “He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Mt 14, 13. He also sought quiet for His disciples, as when the Twelve returned from the mission Jesus had given them:
[H]e said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place (Mk 6, 31-32).
There is a time for noise, a time to face down distractions like Indiana Jones wielding a machete, cutting his way through a steamy jungle. After all, Jesus also sent Peter to Rome, and Paul’s travel itinerary shows he didn’t let much grass growing under his feat. What the saints show us is that when God calls us to action, we’d better hop-to with alacrity.
But there is also a time for quiet. A time to be alone. A time to reflect, and to pray, in silence. In that quiet, we can re-charge our spiritual batteries.
It’s the salty and sweet of discipleship. On the one hand, God’s work takes energy and enthusiasm and plenty of action. On the other, quiet and contemplation help prepare us for the whirlwind, and ready us to carry through on our tasks.
Maybe most important, if silence can cut through the constant clamor to create a little space in our minds, like Peter on the rooftop of the house in Joppa (Acts 10, 9-20), we may be able to hear God in the quiet. Then we’ll know what it is that God is calling us to, and we can get about doing it with the zeal and intensity of the tent-maker from Tarsus.