In one of my rare silent moods, I was reading through my bible. I happened upon 1 Kings 19 where the story of Elijah’s search for God is told. Elijah did not find God in the furious wind. God was not in the earthquake. Neither was he in the roaring blazing fire. According to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, it was in the “sound of sheer silence” that Elijah found God. There, it dawned on me that God spoke through various means, silence inclusive. I asked myself how many times I had missed God’s message because I was in the midst of some hullabaloo that made no sense.
I thought about how full of noise the world is. Noise is everywhere. In traffic, horns blare endlessly, tires screech, people scream and cars crash. Our boots squelch in the mud. We shout across long distances. Men discuss football like it is war. Women scream at each other in pointless arguments. On Friday nights, when one is supposed to be unwinding from a tiring week of work or school, spinners shatter the peace and quiet, depriving one of some much needed quality sleep.
In urban areas, it’s worse. Hawkers shout to make their presence known. Drivers shout at each other impatiently. Trotro mates fight at bus stops. Passengers and bus conductors fight over change. Angry pedestrians scream at some careless driver who either almost hit them or splashed mud on their pristine white clothing. Lorry stations are so noisy you have to shout to be heard. Even in quiet offices, there’s the tattoo of heels on tiled floors, the muffled whispers, the creaking of doors, the whirr of the photocopier, the scraping of chairs, the incessant ringing of the telephone and the rapid clicking of computer keys.
At home, the stereo blares, the TV screams and running water gurgles. There’s the occasional squabble and the irritated yell. At school, there’s the kid who is crying because a bully hit him. There’s the teacher who has lost his cool and is screaming his head off because some student’s prank got to him. There’s the fight over who gets to use the swing first. The list could go on and on. Churches with only a few members can be heard from blocks away. In the end, we scare God away with the noise we make at church. The irony is only a few of these noises are sounds of joy. We miss the beauty and silent whispers of love God sends our way each day. Some smart-ass named this staccato that affects our lives negatively “sensible noise”.
Scientists say noise pollutes the environment and damages our hearing. Now, people escape the very noise they term as sensible to rural areas just to get some peace and quiet. Their excuse is they need a rustic setting but truth is, they are drawn by the silence. Whilst writing this, I stumbled on this prayer by Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie. I’d like to share it with you.
“Dear Father, our lives are polluted with noise. The blaring sounds of a noisy society bombard our ears and agitate our souls. The television set is seldom turned off. We turn on our car radio at the same time we turn the ignition key. Music is piped into everywhere we go, from the grocery store to the gym. On the streets, horns blare, tires screech and tempers flare. Meanwhile, people around us talk constantly, trying to find out what they are saying in the welter of words. It’s so easy to lose the art of being quiet.
“Even in this quiet moment, our minds are racing, our nervous systems are on red alert, and we’re like sprinters, waiting for the starter’s gun to go off. Calm us down Lord, so we can work creatively today.
“Lord, we hear Your voice saying “Peace, be still”. We want the miracle of that stillness and accept it as Your gift. We breathe out the tension and breathe in the breath of Your Spirit. In this time of prayer, speak to us the whisper of Your love and assurance, grace and guidance. Get us ready for a day in which we can be still inside while living in a noisy world. In the name of our Lord and Saviour, Amen.”
Isaiah 30:15 tells us that “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength”. The only way we can get into God’s heart is by shutting off the computers, TVs, radios, telephones and all the other paraphernalia that shout out at us.
Today, I’m a confirmed apostle of silence. I do not want to miss God’s whispers of love. If even winds could obey Christ’s gentle command to be still, why can’t we listen to that gentle and still small voice of calm whispering; “Peace, be still?”