By: Sarah Cates
It has been a busy fall for us. School, church engagements, work, friends and family coming in to town, doctor’s appointments and fall festivities all crammed into 2 and a ½ very short months. Busy busy busy and in the rare moments when not busy, we have craved some relaxation, some brain candy, some way to shut down and truly disengage from the overload. Hello, Facebook. Hello, Instagram. Hello, TV show, movie, book. Distract us, help us to unwind and relax.
All of this activity and hustle and bustle has worn me down. Where is the quiet? Social media is not quiet. Entertainment is not quiet. Even personal relationships are not quiet. None of these things are bad; they are not evil; they are not sinful by any means. But they are not quiet. I may be sitting alone in a quiet room with just my phone, and my ears are not working, but my mind is drowning in a cacophony of noise.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
“But he would withdraw to a desolate place and pray.” (Luke 5:15)
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray.” (Luke 6:12)
“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6:31)
“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…” (Matthew 14:23)
Jesus withdrew countless times, over and over, to “desolate” places, to the wild, to nature, to places where His Father’s still small voice would be the only one in his ear. Do we do this? Do we find these desolate places that are empty of noise and full of God? Do we sit and pray? I don’t think so, partially because I think we over-complicate prayer. Yes, we are taught to speak to God and how to speak to Him. We are told to make our requests known, to bring all our worries to Him and leave them at the Cross with Him. But we are also told to listen. To be quiet.
“I think it is possible to learn stillness - but only if it is seriously sought. God tells us, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 40:10). ‘In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15). The stillness in which we find God is not superficial, a mere absence of fidgeting or talking. It is a deliberate and quiet attentiveness - receptive, alert, ready…” -Elisabeth Elliot
Do we think that in those quiet moments when our mind wanders and we actually take the time to hold our thoughts captive, that the Spirit does not speak? That He does not direct our thoughts to His will, His way? It is usually in those rare moments of quiet, after a time of speaking TO God that I hear FROM God the most in the simple turning of my thoughts. I come to realizations, to peace, to understanding that could not be found apart from Him.
We can’t always withdraw to desolate places and be alone. Stillness and quiet is hard to come by. But can we wake thirty minutes earlier? Can we turn the TV off while washing dishes? Can we sit without our phones while drinking our morning coffee? Can we drive with the nothing but quiet worship music for company? Can we intentionally seek the discomfort of quiet and listen for that still small voice?
I believe we can, and I know that we need to.
“My dear Wormwood: Music and silence–how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell–though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express, no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.” -C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
If thou could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, "This is not dead,"
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou are all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, "This is enow
Unto itself - 'twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me."
Sir Thomas Browne