Last year by this time we had been asked to quarantine. I had just returned from a trip to Ghana with two of my children. Everything was so fast and scary that people had to scramble to buy basic supplies to stock their pantries. The uncertainty surrounding the virus created a kind of silence that was heartbreaking and unnerving. What made life a little more miserable was the fact that some stores had to limit the number of supplies that one could buy. I laughed so hard when I found out that there was no toilet paper at Giant. 'What in God’s name was going on?' I asked myself. Within the shortest time, there was this silence everywhere. You could hear the silent sound of a population that had been asked to stay indoors for its own good.
There’s a story of Elijah on Mount Horeb, ready to see the Lord pass by. “A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still, small voice.” And upon hearing the still small voice, Elijah worshipped.
There is something about the silence that feeds my soul. Remember the story of Jesus withdrawing from his friends to pray and wait upon God? I like the silence of the dawn between 3:00-4:30 a.m. I remember responding to a parishioner’s email at that time. When I met the parishioner, she asked if I ever sleep. The silence of that hour blesses me and that’s usually one of the times that I experience such peace and when I get to be at peace with the world; more than that, it is my most reflective time and also the time that I can hear God speak to me - in silence. I often wonder if many of us really make time to hear God speak to us in silence.
The problem is that you are always busy. You have a lot on your plate. Your world is full of different activities. You barely have time for yourself, let alone your spouse. You probably don’t even remember the last time you made love to your spouse because you are always busy with one thing or the other. Because of all the noise of distractions, you can’t hear the still, small voice within you crying out for help, nor can you hear the still, small voice surrounding you and calling out for your attention.
There once was a farmer who discovered that he had lost his watch in the barn. It was no ordinary watch, for the watch had some sentimental value for him.
After searching high and low among the bales of hay for a long while, he gave up and enlisted the help of a group of children playing outside the barn.
He promised them that the person who found it would be rewarded.
Hearing this, the children hurried inside the barn and went through and around the entire stack of hay, but they still could not find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up looking for his watch, a little boy went up to him and asked to be given another chance. The farmer looked at him and thought, “Why not? After all, this kid looks sincere enough.”
So the farmer sent the little boy back in the barn. After a while, the little boy came out with the watch in his hand! The farmer was both happy and surprised and so he asked the boy how he succeeded where the rest had failed.
The boy replied, “I did nothing but sit on the ground and listen. In the silence, I heard the ticking of the watch and just looked for it in that direction.”
We miss so much because we are not willing to simply sit and listen like this young boy.
The reality is that a peaceful mind can think more clearly than a mind that is worked up. For that reason, try and allow a few minutes of silence to your mind every day, and see how sharply it helps you to set your life the way you expect it to be. Allow yourself a few minutes of silence each day to hear the voice of God constantly reaching out to you. Allow yourself a few minutes of silence each day to just be.... just be.
In a few days, we will begin Holy Week. Palm Sunday will mark for us a joyful celebration of the Son of David who rode a donkey into Jerusalem. As important as it may be, don’t be trapped by the noise of the celebration, wait and pray in silence as the drama slowly builds up. The same celebratory noise was the same noise that condemned the Son of David to death.
But remember this - after all the noise, you will hear the still, small voice which vindicates, the still, small voice which has always been faithful. That voice has never been absent; perhaps you can’t hear it because you cannot sit and listen like the young boy.
I've learned that the soul knows what to do in order to heal itself... the challenge has always been about a mind that can yield itself to the sound of silence.