Drowning Out the Noise with Stillness
“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 AMP
There is a lost art of “being still” that I believe we need to practice and understand more than ever. My grandmother used to explain to me that if a person can sit in a silent room and be completely content without the need to add something (tv, radio, etc.) then they are truly happy. While I am not attempting to draw such a line in the sand as her statement implies I must say that lately it has been on impressed more than ever on my heart the need for quiet and being still.
The dawning of this reality has come to me in the form of children. When taking two children fishing for the very first time a few years ago we realized that almost as soon as their line was in the water they were completely bored and began begging to leave. In their minds, fishing should be as simple and exciting as a video game or playing with an iPod, iPad, etc. I became so sad when I realized that kids today are so overwhelmed with activity and noise that there really is no “file” in their brain for “quiet” or “stillness”. Since that experience I have observed countless children and adults with this precept in the back of my mind. Disappointingly, I have found in almost every case that busyness is not only acceptable but promoted by adults immersed in technology to the point of reducing stillness to near extinction.
So why do we do this? Why do we feel it is necessary to have every moment of the day jam- packed with activities, errands, and noise? We work so hard and buy technology thinking it will make our lives easier and then we turn around and fill that little bit of saved time with more activities and busyness. Could it be a heart issue and not a culture issue? Could it be that many of the behavior problems, stress problems, and general population discord are caused by our minds being shifted into a state of overdrive and overwhelm with everything going on around us?
We are always saying to one another, “time flies, I just can’t believe how fast time flies!” Time itself isn’t speeding up with any noticeable difference to our human minds. Yet each year really does seem to be over faster than the last. It grieves me when I realize that time only seems to move faster when we are not actually living in the moment. (If you care to test this theory turn off every bit of noise except your watch and be still for ten minutes. You will see that ten minutes of peace and quiet and being “in the present moment” seems a lot longer than ten minutes of running around busy cleaning with the television and radio playing in the background.) I wonder how much time I have lost in my lifetime by being busy and not enjoying the present that I am currently operating in? How many memories are a blur to us because after arriving at one destination my mind is already forging into the next?
During one of our small group meetings recently we were discussing our lives and possible distractions to keeping God as the number one priority. One of our members began to speak about busyness and how busyness is almost a competition among parents, friends, and even Christians doing the “good work” of Jesus. This discussion led to a non-hesitant agreement among the group about what a battle it really is to maintain a clear schedule and keep ourselves and our families regulated in a place of peace and contentment at home.
Recently I have sat in on the training for “Godly Play” which is a program for children’s worship invented by Episcopal priest, author, and teacher Jerome Berryman. When I realized the depth of this program I was both stunned and excited as I became aware of the treasure that lies within. The program is geared around the idea of worship and quiet time to become more fully aware of the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. The children in the program are presented with a story by a storyteller that is also immersed in the story him/herself (instead of looking at the children and teaching them they are using props and acting out the story as if they too are learning). Afterwards the children are given an opportunity to respond in a creative way individually (artwork, blocks, puzzles, etc.). When I first sat in on this program I found it difficult to stay regulated and calm and quiet for the entire half hour! But as I have continued training and watching children that have been introduced to the program around the same time that I was I have noticed a visible difference in all of us. We enter the program with quiet anticipation of hearing from God, responding to God, and resting our bodies in stillness. Each week our bodies and minds become a little more accustomed to being still.
In The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewes, Screwtape (one demon training another to mislead his new Christian assignment) advises:
“As long as they’re volunteering anyway, an especially useful tactic is to keep them busy. Really busy. It’s not hard to do, because they like to think the more work they do, the more spiritual they are. They help us out in this by using guilt to get others to volunteer, and some people will respond by volunteering without thinking it through. It’s also easy for us because humans these days like to cram as many activities and responsibilities into their day as possible.”
Bringing peace into our lives by wisely choosing activities and involvement is wisdom. Seeking God about the volunteer opportunities we are called to partake in rather than taking on anything we can cram in is one way to choose peace and stillness. Other small ways to eliminate or bring noise to a minimum can also be form of warfare. Graham Cooke often says, “Rest is a weapon against the enemy. He cannot penetrate your peace.” Bringing our minds and bodies to a place of rest is choosing to operate in the peace that God has already given us.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
This verse is clear that Jesus left us with the Peace brought by the Holy Spirit. We must choose to operate in that peace and not “let” our hearts be troubled. Subconsciously, noise affects us and our bodies. If we are tense, stressed, and exasperated we should pull back and look at the noise level in our lives over the past several days. It truly is the little things in our life that create big waves of difference.
Realistically we cannot always have a quiet home or block off hours of quiet time to receive from the Lord. But if we make a mental note to bring the noise that we can control to a minimum there will be a permanent difference in our relationships, responses, and stress/energy levels. For me, stillness brings intimacy with God that I have not experienced anywhere else. When I am out in the working in the garden and listening to the beauty of nature and noticing the colors around me I feel freely connected to God with no hindrances. When I am in the car and choose to turn off the radio and be in the moment listening to the drone of the engine, the pavement beneath the car, and feel the sunshine through the glass, I think of Jesus. Bringing peace into our lives in the small ways by choosing to eliminate or bring noise to a minimum will be one of the greatest forms of warfare.
“We cannot fully realize true intimacy with God until we learn how to come before Him in quietness of spirit, mind, and body. An atmosphere of stillness is absolutely essential for us if we wish to experience deep, loving communion with our Lord. David the psalmist wrote, ‘My soul waits in silence for God only.’ The prophet Habakkuk proclaimed, ‘But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.’ When Elijah listened for the counsel of God, he heard the Lord not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in a ‘still small voice.’….Quietness is a time-honored and proven method of prayer and fellowship with God that is almost totally ignored by modern-day Christians. Learning to be quiet before the Lord is one of the greatest challenges we face today in our quest to enter in and experience true intimacy with Him.”
James Goll in The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence
Often I am approached by others asking what they can do to hear the voice of God more clearly. One person said to me, “I ask God things all the time but I never get answers. What can I do?” My simple and only response for this person was, “Do you wait for an answer?” It is so easy to spout off our prayers to our Father and bounce straight into the next part of our day. But just as we check our emails and wait for responses, our telephones for voicemails, our Facebook for updates we should be checking back in with God so that He can share with us as well. When I have friends over I turn down the radio, turn off the television, and listen to them. In doing this I am not merely being respectful I am making a way for us to connect, converse, and build relationship. I think it would be a great privilege to be called a “Friend of God” just as Abraham was. (James 2:23)
I challenge you to dissect your daily routine for ways to create an atmosphere and lifestyle of stillness. Be a true friend of God. Choose quiet and peace because in doing so you are choosing true intimacy.
In his book “Prayers From the Heart”, Richard Foster offers a Prayer For Quiet:
“I have, O Lord, a noisy heart. And entering outward silence doesn’t stop the inner clamor. In fact, it seems only to make it worse. When I am full of activity, the internal noise is only a distant rumble; but when I get still, the rumble amplifies itself. And it is not like the majestic sound of a symphony rising to a grand crescendo; rather, it is the deafening din of clashing pots and clanging pans. What a racket! Worst of all, I feel helpless to hush the interior pandemonium. Dear Lord Jesus, you once spoke peace to the wind and the waves. Speak Your shalom over my heart. I wait silently…patiently. I receive into the very core of my being Your loving command, ‘Peace, be still.’ Amen.”
Further Resource Suggestions:
Young Children and Worship – Sonja M. Stewart, Jerome Berryman
The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence – James Goll
The Practice of the Presence of God – Brother Lawrence
Loving What Is – Byron Katie
Crafted Prayer – Graham Cooke