So much of my day is filled with noise. I wake up to an alarm clock (if I’m not awake before it starts)…I grind the coffee beans and start the coffee (an essential if I’m going to become sort of human)…I mix my protein shake…I turn on the shower…and the day goes on with noise. There are even noises all night…the dog jumping up in the bed and having to adjust way too often…my mom’s dog next door barking incessantly at everything (only the Lord knows what annoys that dog all night)…I’m even looking at getting a noise machine to block out the noises all night. We grow accustomed to noise. It is every where. And we get worried when things are quiet…something has to be wrong if there is silence. The TV must be broke or somebody must be mad… Rarely does someone point out how much someone talks but will quickly point out how uncommonly quiet someone was. If we aren’t talking, then we are rude or trying to make a statement. And yet, most of what is said is so unnecessary…it is just filling up empty space…space that is actually better empty. Even in church, we begin to squirm if there are times of silence (doesn’t the preacher know what to say? how long will this “moment” of silence last? doesn’t he know people go to sleep if there is too much silence for too long? do we have to be quiet to actually hear God? Lord…is this silent time done yet??)
The interesting part of it all is that we miss so many important things because of all the noise. This morning I went for a run…and it was raining. Now, I’m not much for running in the rain, but I’m trying to stick to this challenge…and blah blah blah…I ran in the rain. It was quiet because it is a holiday and not many people were out and about. There were no sounds of cars or talking or even hunting. So, I noticed something special on the run…birds still sing in the rain. If I wasn’t out running and I wasn’t paying attention, I would have missed the beautiful songs being sung by God’s creatures. It was peaceful. It made me slow down and just enjoy the song… (I can hear you now…do I have to go on a run to hear birds? Aren’t there birds on the sound machine? Can’t we hear birds on the TV? who cares if birds sing in the rain?) The songs of the birds are priceless…and I love that God put a song in their heart…I’ll leave it there.
I am often reminded (and have written about it before) of the scripture in James that says we should be slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen. From this scripture, I am reminded that we cannot listen if we are talking…and that is so true. So many times I find myself half listening until they stop so I can say what I wanted to say. It is like a competition to speak. I’m even formulating a response while they are still jabbing on. And yet, no one is really listening. We aren’t listening because we want to be heard. At the end of the day, we make much more of an impact when we listen. It is different…it is unique…and it takes practice. Arsenious, a Desert Father said, “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.” From personal experience, I can definitely relate. There have been many, many, many (you get the idea) times that I have needed to repent when the words flowed faster than my mind could hold back.
In The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen writes, “We speak about the events of the world, but how often do we really change them for the better? We speak about people and their ways, but how often do our words do them or us any good? We speak about our ideas and feelings as if everyone were interested in them, but how often do we really feel understood?”
So, I’m trying to learn to be slow to speak…and quick to listen. It is causing my tongue to bleed from biting down (ok…not really bleed, just be really sore). It is causing me to breathe a lot deeper because my smart mouth is about to bust wide open. But, in the end, I realize that I can’t really hear any one if I’m not paying attention. I miss what people are really trying to say (because often it is much more than the words that they actually speak) if I am already thinking about my response. I am missing out on the gift of being with people if I can’t be quiet and listen. And…at the end of the day…I can certainly feel better if I’ve kept my mouth shut and heard rather than said things I regretted.
Side note…if you see me after reading this, please don’t try and test how good I am at this…I’m a work in progress…and I could end up needing to repent if pushed.