Lifestyle

Faithful Living: Hear God when silence falls

It usually strikes around 9 p.m. when my kids are either returning from an extra-curricular activity or finishing up with their homework. Enough time has elapsed from the moment dinner was served that they are hungry, once again. Almost on cue they descend upon the kitchen with a driving need to replenish their coffers. Music gets turned way up, the microwave beeps with activity, the whirl of the blender fills the air and their enthusiastic chatter fills the downstairs. In minutes they are revitalized once again by food and conversation and entertainment.

What’s on TV? or, Who’s online? I’ll invariably hear. My kids’ defiance to leaving the day behind astounds me, for I long for something far simpler and dramatically different when 9 p.m. rolls around.

I long for silence.

When I was a teenager I promised myself I would never disregard the passionate causes of a teen when I became a parent. I would not grouse at the kids about their loud music and their nocturnal schedules. I would also attempt to be understanding and accept the fact that cultural change would create musical expression I might not appreciate the way they do.

I have not forgotten that private commitment I made each time my parents called down the hall in my childhood home, “It’s l-a-t-e! Turn off that music and get yourself in bed!”

All those promises have come back to haunt me at times. I find that more often than not I must take an extra breath and pray when kid noise pushes me to the extremes and their energy reminds me that my own wanes much sooner than it used to. I ask God to help me respond with grace to the merriment and enthusiasm when I would rather be winding down.

I say all this with a cautionary note: I work hard to never compromise good sense nor strive to be popular with my kids. I abandoned those impulses long ago. Neither am I hesitant to turn down the volume amidst strong dissent when logic and safety dictates that we accurately hear what is going on around us.

And yet, I have changed and the dynamics leave me mystified. As much as I hate to admit it, I frequently have a tough time making out the lyrics — just like my parents did. And the music — well, it sometimes hurts my ears. Frequently the kids’ volume choices seem way too loud to me and I wonder, Is my hearing changing with age?

Perhaps it’s not the volume. It may be a host of other issues. So I ask myself, Have I taken on so many adult concerns that I have lost my playfulness? Or to put a more positive spin on things, Have I at last learned about the absolute beauty of silence?

In his book, “The Plain Man’s Book of Prayers,” author William Barclay suggests that one of our greatest faults is that we talk too much, listen too little and forget to pray. “When prayer is at its highest,” Barclay writes, “we wait in silence for God’s voice to reach us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over and around us.”

How often do we avoid God and choose to occupy ourselves with video games, movie rentals and over-crowded schedules, instead?

I think we should open ourselves to the idea that there needs to be time when we let the kids turn up the volume and let it boom. We should also take Barclay’s simple idea and apply it liberally to the sum of our lives. We should insist that there be some moments when family members are asked to be deliberately quiet. That way when we long for clear thinking and wisdom, when we seek the patience to weather a situation that challenges our well-being, may we choose to linger in a place that is quiet.

Only then will we begin to experience God’s voice.

Do most people actually hear God’s voice? I have never personally heard a sound resembling a voice, although some folks lay claim to such an experience and I have no reason to disbelieve them. I happen to experience God’s “voice” when peace and deep joy roll over me in waves. When original ideas suddenly come to me out of nowhere. When possibilities and plans rapidly reveal themselves. When a flow of light and hope restores my worried soul.

These essential experiences only come to me when I surround myself with silence.

The funny thing is, most of us are afraid of silence. We worry about feeling silly. We picture ourselves sitting down, closing our eyes, asking God for wisdom and comfort, then sitting there in dreaded silence, feeling disconnected and alone.

I encourage you to choose some moments to be completely quiet this week. Get up early before the kids thunder toward their cereal bowls, stereos or TVs. Schedule a walk. Write in a journal. Go clean up a flowerbed in anticipation of some spring planting. Kneel at your bedside before sliding under your comforter and make a deliberate connection with the Lord.

In silence you will hear His song.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s email is jbklope@hotmail.com.

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