I’ve always had a sensitivity to noise, but it’s getting worse. I think that’s because the world is getting noisier. Every store I go into is blaring the latest top 40 music (as if I want to hear about some teenager’s sexual exploits while trying to buy a carton of eggs). When Robby and I pay good money to eat out at a restaurant, we often have to talk over the music and several TVs, all tuned to different stations. At doctors’ offices (which are stressful enough), the TVs are usually tuned to daytime talk shows showcasing the worst humanity has to offer.
In traffic, the guy next to me will inevitably blast his music because he thinks it makes him look cool. (It doesn’t.) Even at home, a neighbor will often turn up his favorite station until I have to shut my windows for a little peace and quiet.
And that’s what I find myself seeking these days: peace and quiet.
When I was little, I loved to stay at my grandparents’ house. Papa liked to have the TV on all the time, whether he was watching it or not. But whenever he would go outside, Grandma would immediately turn it off. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for us to finally watch what we wanted to watch, but to Grandma it was an opportunity for some peace and quiet.
Looking back, I don’t remember any of those TV shows, but I do remember Grandma singing hymns in the kitchen while the washing machine thumped along in the background. To me, this is what a peaceful home sounds like.
I understand now what Grandma meant when she said she needed quiet time to hear herself think and to hear God speak to her. By seeking silence, Grandma was able to tune out the world and tune into God.
How can we expect to hear God’s voice when we can’t even hear ourselves think? How can we focus on what’s important in life if our attention is constantly switching from one song or show to the next? Why do we feel the need to stuff ourselves with entertainment at the expense of our own peace?
Author Richard J. Foster addressed this issue back in 1978 in his book, Celebration of Discipline: “Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.”
Foster goes on to discuss the Discipline of Solitude, which he states is inseparable from inner silence. “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment… There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times… if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”
That’s what I want! Don’t you?
Fortunately, solitude is something we can attain through spiritual discipline. Foster states that one way to “step into solitude” is to “take advantage of the ‘little solitudes,’ that fill our day,” from quiet early mornings to being stuck in traffic. We can also develop a “quiet place,” such as a special room in the house where we can shut out the noise for a bit.
Robby and I discovered this inadvertently when we canceled our cable. I’d like to say that we were being super-spiritual, but the truth is that it was getting too expensive. Although we still have internet-based TV, the format is different. Instead of streaming one show after another, we have to select each show we want to watch. Since we have to be intentional about it, we find ourselves watching less. We also avoid the hamster wheel of 24/7 news and weather; this change alone has removed stress from our home. We even avoid commercials now, which are manipulative by default.
Now, Robby listens to the news for a few minutes in the morning and evenings so we can stay current on important events. When he gets home from work, I’ll turn on something soothing like light jazz or Christian music, and we’ll enjoy our dinner at the dining table (not in front of the boob tube!). On weekends we might find a show or movie to watch, but for the most part, we prefer to piddle around the house or read. We tune out the noise of the world and make room for each other and for God.
As we’ve quieted our home, I’ve felt a quietening within my spirit. Yes, I still have to contend with the noise of the world, but I’m learning to develop that inner silence Foster speaks of—and you can too!
I encourage you to watch your habits this week. Do you reach for the radio, the TV remote, and the phone without even thinking about it? Do you always have something on, even in the background? Do you feel uncomfortable with silence, even in your own home? If so, it’s time to make a change. Unplug for awhile. Fill that time with quiet rest, housework, or a hobby. Even better, read your Bible and pray. By carving out some time for a little peace and quiet, you might begin to hear God speak to you like never before.
“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).
Sometimes, God prefers to speak in a still, small voice. Can you hear Him? [Click to Tweet!]