Monday, April 07, 2008

Shhh . . .

Shhh . . . It's quiet. I just noticed. And truthfully this day has been a quieter day. Though it doesn't always happen this way, this Monday, today, has truly been a day off. I've gone for a walk, had a nap, and now am having a relatively quiet evening. This is quite uncharacteristic of our evenings, but our daughter, who currently is sick with a nasty cold, has been in bed for an hour or more already. That, while not good, does have a definite effect on the degree of quiet in our home! And so in spite of our daughter's being sick, the quiet is most welcome.

And it has been welcome, and needed, because life normally isn't quiet. Sound pervades most waking moments of our lives. It could be the TV, radio, computer, conversation, street noise, children running amok from room to room, or even music from a stereo. Some of the sound is wanted, and some of it is unwanted; some of it we invite, and some of it enters like an unwelcome intruder.

I realized today, too, that sometimes we don't always know the benefit of quiet until we actually experience it. And it's funny because sometimes I deliberately fill my time with noise, of whatever sort, to prevent quiet, to escape it. I suppose sometimes we don't want to know what we might hear in the quiet, when nothing else is drowning out the sound of the stillness.

Isaiah 30:15 says: "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'" And though this is taking the verse somewhat out of context, it's true that we "would have none of it" at times. We'd rather crowd out God's voice, his offer of salvation, with noise. Perhaps that's because salvation proceeds from repentance. And so often we try to manage life with our own strength.

In quietness and trust is your strength.

But rather than manage our struggles and our problems, things that stress us out, on our own, we are invited to trust that God can lead us through threatening waters. Exodus 14:13, 14 says: "Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" Pressed between an approaching army and the waters of the Red Sea, Israel was told to be still. Hard-pressed by the burdens of life, we rarely allow ourselves to be still enough to trust God. Certainly, that's not our natural inclination.

In 1 Kings 19:11, 12 the prophet Elijah was told by God, when feeling overwhelmed by Jezebel's threats after defeating the prophet's of Baal: "The LORD said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

A gentle whisper. How often do we stand still long enough to hear this whisper? "Be still, and know that I am God," Psalm 46:10 tells us. How often do I slow down enough to know God, to hear him and to benefit from the quiet of being in his presence? Though we spend most of our time surrounded by noise, sometimes we have to stand still and slow down and let ourselves hear that "still, small voice." And sometimes the first thing God says to us is "Shhh."

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