Growing up, my family of six would take a summer vacation each year in our big, brown van. With sleeping bags, coolers, and pillows, we were crammed like a bunch of silvery fish in a can, traveling hundreds of miles just to get to the next KOA camp. Between braiding hair, singing Disney songs, and pestering each other, my mom would regularly initiate a game: little red schoolhouse.
What a tricky mom! See, this game is hardly a game. It begins the minute someone says “little red schoolhouse” instituting silence in the vehicle. The first person to make a noise loses. The game continues until there is one silent person left…which was always my dad. My mom thought this was a super-fun competition. It was not. Silence through the never-ending amber waves of grain was torture.
Silence has always been difficult for me to appreciate. The absence of sound and noise stirs up unrest deep within me. See, I never experienced much silence growing up. The youngest of 30 some cousins, co-owner of 15-20 pets back in my middle school days with 12 “daycare” kids running around my house, my childhood was rarely quiet.
My issue with silence runs deeper than the culture I grew up in. When my lips stop moving and the music turns off, it’s then my mind is free to wander. No longer preoccupied or distracted, I am finally able to tune into the deep recesses of my soul, my real feelings, thoughts, & dreams.
While in a room full of people, silence speaks to me, “bored, annoyed, awkward.” Desperately I try to ease my own restlessness by telling stories or asking questions.
And then I started reading Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster:
“Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on that.”
How I need a stopper; such self-regard, pride, and ego governing my tongue. How deeply I desire power to manipulate people and circumstances to get my way. I’m so afraid of being vulnerable & susceptible to attack, criticism, and injury. And so I talk. And I avoid silence.
But what healing, restoration, and clarity am I missing because I don’t keep quiet?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to speak up, using words to communicate love, encouragement, and guidance. I just believe there’s a need for harmony, noise & silence, amidst this complex, beautiful world.
As we wait in anticipation the King’s coming, I’m reminded of these rich words from a 1700s song:
May you be set free this season from the tyranny of talking. May you be released from the regard for only yourself. And may you rest in silence, tuning your heart and ears to hear His voice.