Instead of a donkey, you are in your car/van/truck driving down a long stretch of highway. The radio is blaring. No kids screaming. Just you, the dirt, the asphalt. Your fingers tap out the tune on the radio as you lip sync the words. The sun beats gently down warming the vehicle enough to allow the window to be nicely tucked inside the door. The wind brushing your face like the wings of a butterfly. Suddenly you hear a noise that doesn’t fit the song. It is a familiar sound yet seems to distant. The sound seems to be getting louder and your first thought is there must be something wrong with the radio station. Your second thought is “Oh God, not the car. I’m in the middle of no where and there is nothing around me.” The third thought is the reality that you are being pulled over by a state trooper.
A speeding ticket later, something you haven’t seen in a decade, you hit the road again. Feeling a bit of a damper on your journey but still you are going to proceed forward. The ticket has made you fall behind schedule, which you were already running late (thanks to the drama that unfolded at home just prior to your departure), and slightly annoyed. When the phone rings and you see it is your destination calling.
You hesitate slightly before reaching for the phone. You’ve been on the road for over an hour already, and you’ve left the kids with your spouse for the day to make this journey. Skeptically, your mind is saying, “now what”, as you say, “Hello?” The voice on the other end of the phone tells you that the event you are traveling for will have to be postponed because someone has fallen ill and is requiring attention. Of course you understand but you are also incredibly frustrated. Well, you figure, I’m only 30 minutes from downtown, and I have come all this way. I might as well continue forward, have some lunch, get some gas, and maybe stop at that little bakery to bring home a treat for the family.
You reach downtown without any further hitches. Your favorite restaurant is open and has a table for you. You are finally feeling like today is not going to be a complete waste. You order your favorite meal, one you haven’t had in a long time, only to have it come out less than favorable. Gas is nearly $.30/gallon more than you pay at home. The bakery is closed. And your happy mood on the drive out is now sitting in the toilet with your really horrible lunch. Then you have the 1.5 hour drive home and ponder what else can go wrong. This has been the worst day ever.
Your drive home goes smoothly. No hitches, no hiccups. The music is good. The sun is still out keeping you warm. No phone calls announcing major changes. You walk in the door to be greeted with joy at seeing you return so early. And you exhale in satisfaction. While driving back, you turned off the radio for a spell to just relish some peace knowing when you got home it would be the typical chaos of little children. During this time your thoughts wandered aimlessly until it found a fixation on the feeling you had when you woke up this morning. The ol’ “I really don’t feel up to doing this today” feeling that you’ve had before. You allow your thoughts to swirl on this for a time. And then you ask…
Was that me just being lazy, tired, and put out or was God speaking to me suggesting that I don’t go today?
I completely get what Pastor Bill was saying in today’s sermon. Not only do I understand but I can see daily how I too have talked too much and not listened enough. How I have interjected what I wanted the outcome to be instead of actually accepting what God was telling me. How I so desperately wanted to change something because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. How I questioned not only the direction but what I foresaw as the final outcome.
Stop praying brings the sound of silence. A sound that is deafening with its own quality of noise. In silence we cannot be distracted by our own thoughts, by our own limitations, by our own projections. I just finished reading the book Eat, Pray, Love (a challenge for myself after seeing the movie) and when she was eating her way through Italy, I read with a mouth watering fervor. When she was in Bali and finding love I read with a romantic lilt. When she was in India finding a deeper spiritual connection with God I struggled. There were so many passages in there that I marked to re-read. Her journey required the ability to find true and pure silence.
Is that to say that we will get every message loud and clear? Probably not. We are human, living in a human world, conflicted with human thoughts and notions. We can however work to better ourselves and our relationship not only with God but through God with all of our brothers and sisters.
Silence is something that must be practiced. When someone says, “I need to pray about this,” they are asking for patience to see if they can hear what God’s message is for them. Sometimes we are successful at hearing the message while other times we think we’ve heard it correctly, but the line had static on it thus the whole thing was not exactly what we had hoped.
Is that to say that every relationship will be “good”? Life doesn’t work that way, though I wish it did because more people would find peace and harmony in a shared existence instead of a reason for ridicule and discomfort. Not everyone will hear God. Not everyone will find the silence to form a deeper bond. So instead of looking outward Pastor Bill is saying look inside to your own silence, hear your message from God, and then move forth.
When my kid’s are not with me in the car I quite often will turn off the radio and drive in the silence afforded me in those precious five minutes. Before kids I would have blasted the radio so loud my car vibrated down the street (saving gas money, no doubt). At home I used to have the TV on or radio, but now when I am (all to rare) home alone I will allow distraction by the computer but will have no other sounds. I cherish those moments of silence. That is not the silence Pastor Bill was asking us to find, though. The no noise distractions help, but where the silence must come from is internal and spiritual. It is allowing ourselves to let go of control for a few moments and allow our questions to float to Heaven then allowing the reverberation to return in a whispered answer.
In today’s world such silence is a treasure indeed. We are all so busy, involved with a plethora of activities both in and out of the home. Our spouses, our kids, our jobs all seem to take precedence. In most American homes we are raised to occupy every minute, of everyday with “noise”. Some cultures and religions teach their children from a young age how to find moments within everyday to stop rushing around and find the silence that is necessary to keep the gap between Heaven and Earth closed. It is an ability that is born into each of us but is lost or honed depending on how we are raised. An ability we can regain through time, patience and effort. It is a life change. It is setting your mind and heart to set aside the time necessary to allow the silence to wrap around you like a warm and loving blanket. It is God’s arms holding you on his lap and whispering into your ear the words you need to hear to help you move forward with your life.