Well, Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone. They are often noisy events. More noise on top of what is already a noisy existence in our world. Have you noticed? It is noisy out there in the world – in restaurants, stores, shopping malls, theatres, everywhere. And, it is noisy in our homes with the television going, kids on iPads, iPhones, Spotify, SiriusXM, and numerous other ways to get our ‘noise fix’ for the day.
I took one of my daughters out for lunch just before Christmas. I arrived early so I could relax and read for a few minutes. But, the music was playing so loud it hurt my ears. And, the staff were over the other side of the restaurant talking to each other. Well, really they were literally yelling at each other. They had to yell to be heard. Sad. When my daughter came and the lunch crowd began to arrive – they turned the “noise” up. First and last time I will spend my time and money there.
During the holidays I was having a great night’s sleep when all of a sudden I woke up. Something was different. Now, I live in a fairly quiet house. And, my office and study are upstairs and away from normal life and people traffic. So, I am use to quiet even when working. But, that night I woke up and knew something was different. It was creepy silent. The power had gone out in my region of the city. And, all the white noise that is normally there was all of a sudden quiet, gone, still. The noise went from quiet – I would say silent – to creepy silent. The noise dropped from silent to terrifying. The dozens of devices that are usually receiving electricity – the clock, the iPhone charging, the computer (which is never turned off), the fridge in my study (you know, Coke Zero), the freezer, the modem, the fan. They were no longer buzzing. That was true silence. And I realized that I had not really “heard it” for ages.
I think we have just become use to the constant noise that is in our world. Dare I call it noise pollution. Our minds block out a lot of the noise and so we don’t pay any attention to it – thus it does not even register that it is out there. So, even a quiet place – like Starbucks where I sometimes go to read and write – is not really quiet. I have just learned to block out most of the noise – the coffee machines grinding coffee, the steam being let out of the milk warmers, the music they play, the ice box lid sliding back into place, the scooping and rattling of the ice for a drink, cups and lids snapping, names being called out when an order is ready, doors opening, the drive-thru window opening, and people talking at the next table. It is amazing how noisy it really is for a “quiet place” that many people use for work – and how good we have gotten at being numb to the noise.
Noise distracts. Numbs. And we are surrounded by white noise even though we often fail to hear it or recognize the influence it is having on us. The damage it is doing. As a society, we have normalized insane levels of noise. It is difficult today to find the quiet that we need – as humans, as believers who are in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Here is what I have discovered…
Silence is quiet. But it also roars,
Noise distracts. Numbs.
And while the white noise all around us is certainly not ideal, I don’t think we realize how quickly “normal” noise crosses into damaging noise. This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life and our spirit’s connection with God’s Holy Spirit.
So, during the Christmas and New Year’s break from active ministry I have worked diligently to keep family activities at a minimal so that I could have some serious quiet – Intense silence. I have worked hard to carve out time for ‘Intentional Deliberate Silence.’ Add to this being alone for an extended period of time – it called “solitude” and it is a receipt for renewal and discovery.
Henri Nouwen, a powerful Christian writer and activist, said about his experience with silence and solitude: “Solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born.”
In other words, it is not a therapeutic place. It is a place where you go to die.
He went on to say that silence is such a force because it is truly one of the only places we are laid bare. Completely naked.
No calls to make. No meetings to attend. No tasks to accomplish. No music to listen to.
It’s complete nothingness. He goes on to say, “A nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.”
More next time…