Zechariah 2:13a – Be silent, oh all flesh, before the Lord.
Sound and noise engulf our lives. It is with us from the rude awakening of the alarm clock in the morning, and does not leave us until the radio stops playing soothing "good night" music. It is constant in our lives. To start our day, the radio is blaring out the latest world-wide disaster. People listen to personal music systems on the way to work, or crank up their stress level with the car radio's traffic reports.
Even when we get to the office, it's no better. The phone rings, the fax hums and co-workers and clients want our ears all the time. Bosses, marketers and even office machines add to the din. Screaming might make you feel better, but I don't think you're going to be heard over the din. There are more traffic reports on the way home, for most of us, and then the TV blares all evening. Is it surprising that our families can't get a word heard?
God did not design creation like that. Deep down, we know that. For our sanity, we need to escape.
Henri J.M. Nouwen was a very well-known Christian author. At one point in his life, when he was feeling pulled in many directions, he took some time away from his lectures, classes and writing and spent seven months in a Trappist monastery, near Rochester, New York. Nouwen wrote about his experience in a beautiful little book called The Genesee Diary, because the monastery is located in the Genesee valley, in upstate New York. In his book, Nouwen writes that one of the special things these monks do is what they don't do: speak. I understand they use sign language, or pass each other a note. They have special room where they go, if they need to speak.
Most people who make this kind of retreat are struck at how healing the silence can be. We shut out the roar of the world, and we can literally hear ourselves think, again. There is quiet, there is peace. And in that peace and quiet, there is a new, silent space for the "still small voice" of God. Many people, including myself, find this is a must, if they are to continue to function.
In his book The Screwtape Letters, a fable about life in hell, C.S. Lewis calls hell the "Kingdom of Noise" and says one of the aims of the devil is to engulf the world in noise. Heaven, Lewis wrote, is only music and silence. The Book of Revelation says "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1) Maybe that's all they need in heaven, but we could sure use a lot more peace and quiet on the earth.
Prayer: Lord, help us understand that we need a life that is more faithful and peaceful than frantic and busy. Please help us understand that the world does not come to an end if we slow down and gear down. Let our ears be shut to the clamour of the world, and our spirits open to the still small voice of the Spirit. Amen.