There’s a gas station near my house that I frequent. When I stopped in the other day, something was different. We were headed out together as a family for an adventure. As I stepped out of the car to fill it up, there was instant noise and flickering of lights… the gas station had upgraded their pumps—the new ones featured little television screens and speakers.
This is not my favorite.
I realized as I stood there waiting for the tank to fill that I had come to enjoy these 2-3 minutes of quietness. And now that space has been filled up with news reports, entertainment, and advertisement.
Sue Monk Kidd, in her book God’s Joyful Surprise, writes…
Silence. Quietness. Stillness. Is there anything twenty-first century America neglects as much? There is no reprieve even in the elevator where music is piped in to cover the silence. We drive to the store or home from work through a maze of billboards screaming more words at us.
All day the roar of technology around us is constant: traffic, planes, phones, dishwashers, television, videos, electronic toys that talk, blip and bleep incessantly. We are buried under a deluge of meaningless sounds, so habituated to them we hardly notice any more.
The clamor inside us is just as noisy as the din outside us.
For the most part we cannot easily keep out all the clamor and noise that spins around us. It spills over into our lives like a river that overflows it banks. We need a measure of exterior silence in order to become silent within.
We all have our special places, I suppose, that draw us to God. The ocean is mine. I go there whenever I can because somehow it puts me in touch with a quiet place inside and nourishes the presence of God in my life. I watch the ebb and flow of the sea and listen to the undulating rhythm of the waves in time with something deep in my own spirit.
Why must we cover the silence in our world? Why do we tote radios into every conceivable place? Why do we leave the television on even when we’re not watching it? Is it because silence has become so alien to us we feel strange in its presence? Do we feel insecure in silent places because here is a part of the world we cannot control with our man-made sounds? Or do we flinch from silence because we fear what we may confront there?
The more we grow accustomed to the roar of background noise in our world, to the constant flood of words, the more difficult it becomes to hear the small healing sounds—wind rustling in a pine tree, a chirping bird, water lapping on a river bank. And, the still small voice of God whispering within.
“God speaks to us every day, but we do not listen,” I read recently. Every day? Can it possibly be true? Does God speak to us every day? All day? If it is true, the though of what we are missing is staggering!
The Bible records that He spoke continuously in an assortment of ways. In a rainbow after a flood, in a thicket where a ram was caught, in a burning bush, a still small voice, a thick cloud, a dove, dreams, strangers, angels, prophets—and ultimately in an instrument of death, a cross. Throughout the Bible, there is a recurrent theme of God speaking. God’s very nature is to communicate and reveal. Why should that stop? Has He changed His nature after A.D. 100? My conclusion is that God, who is the same today as yesterday, is still speaking. It is we who have trouble hearing Him.
It’s not like God to yell in order to make Himself heard over all the sounds in our world. Rather He calls on us to turn from our frantic lives and grow quiet. “Be still, and know that I am God,” He tells us (Psalm 40.10).