I find I can’t filter noise like I used to.
When my kids were small, I learned to tune it out. So much so, that they still sometimes have to get in my face to be sure I’m listening. But that has less to do with hearing and more to do with attention. I know. I just have a lot of thoughts…
I also used to play music, listen to talk radio, have TV on in the background while they napped and I worked. But now, when I want to think, or read, or write, or pray…I need silence. So much so, that I can’t even pray in my head and heart when there’s music in church…
Someday, I know the silence of my house will make me sad. But right now, while my house is full, in the late night stillness, I feel a blessed peace. Nobody needs me right now. I can be alone with my thoughts and sort them.
You’d think that someone who enjoys the quiet so much would be good at something like meditation. But that’s not true of me. I have a noisy, cluttered brain.
Silence is a discipline.
I’ve been attempting to practice this discipline. Not in the quiet of night, but when I wake up in the morning.
It’s more difficult than it sounds. Even for someone who loves quiet.
First, you have to get free of noise and distractions: no electronic devices, no music, no muted TV. That’s not easy in a culture where we’ve been putting on headphones to shut out the world since forever.
We equate being alone with being silent, but it’s not the same thing.
And there are plenty of noise-free distractions. If I pray the Lord’s prayer and attempt to be still for just 15 minutes in total silence, the first 14 are often spent shooing away the to-do list and all the ideas that suddenly seem so urgent.
Sometimes I write those things down and reset the timer. Because honestly, there’s so much “noise” in my life — email, Facebook, texts — the important thing could get lost again for ever.
But the point of this sort of silence is not to hear my own mind, but to hear a still, small voice that has been drowned out through constant listening. Our ears and minds are full of now, full of what makes us comfortable, what we enjoy.
Silence, real silence before God, is uncomfortable.
In silence, we come face to face with all we’ve tried to ignore. All the times we’ve forced our will not God’s, the debtors we can’t seem to forgive, the temptations that haunt us.
If my simple prayer is to awaken to God’s presence in my life, I need to know His voice. To hear it apart from the noise, from the commentators, from the opinions and activities of my friends.
God, what do you want me to see, to hear, not notice, to forgive, to ask?
What guilt have I not unconfessed? What shame still lingers?
What worries, regrets, jealousies and desires are tucked away in my heart and mind?
Noise, even the noise of our own thoughts and dreams, is an anesthesia. And when it wears off, it can be ugly. All six times I’ve gone under anesthesia for surgery, I’ve panicked coming out.
Shutting off all the noise external and internal to be awakened to my hidden faults, to buried wounds, feels much the same — until I confess them and let God heal me.
I wish I could say I do this every day, but every day that I do, I feel spiritually awake. Oh, hardly miss a day of reading Scripture and books, but this sort of stepping away from the noise into silence before God? I can’t believe all the distractions I have to fight.
Tonight, I will set my phone out of reach, so I’m not tempted to scroll, put a note card on my nightstand and remember to practice just 15 minutes of silence and allow God to have the first words of my day.