As a teenager, I babysat for several years for a young family with four small children. Being in charge of the oft-noisy brood, if I was in another room preparing their lunches or straightening up, their racket-factor raised my antenna: it was my job to know exactly what (and how) they were doing. The sounds of their voices gave me important clues:
Are they whiny? Donny and Jennifer may need a nap.
Are they loud and giggly? Beth and Bobby are excited about something.
Total silence? Go quickly, and check on them!
If they got into an argument, my strategy for calming them down was often cuddling up together on the sofa, to watch an episode of Sesame Street. Their brains sponged up the entertaining antics of Oscar the Grouch, like when he popped his head out from under a garbage-can lid, to plan a trick on Cookie Monster. Laughter always ensued. Another episode featured a video and song about rainy days.
It’s a rainy day, it’s a rainy day. It’s raining outside, and I can’t go out and play. Why do we need the rain, anyway?” (Watch Here) This simple weather song taught them to look on the bright side, and reminded me that the mere sound of rain can be soothing. Hearing nothing but rain can be therapeutic, but when I enter into a selected silence, it can become a retreat.
My dear mother-in-law sought silence one afternoon, in an unconventional way. While raising four rambunctious boys, she told me how difficult it was for her sometimes, to cope with their chaos:
“Don’t ever tell anyone, but after a challenging day with the boys, when I heard their dad come in from work, I quickly went to my bedroom, closed the door, and hid under the bed. I heard my husband asking, ‘Where’s your Mom?’ I just stayed there awhile, knowing they’d search for me. I wasn’t playing hide-and-seek; I just wanted a few minutes peace.” Raising three daughters of my own, I could relate to needing time to myself. Being a stay-at-home mom who seldom stayed at home, I met up with other moms and their children: Mondays were play dates; Tuesdays meant walks to the nearby harbor to feed the ducks, and Wednesdays meant story/craft time during children’s hour at our local library.
Now that I’m an active grandmother to three small granddaughters, the cycle repeats. As wonderful a privilege it is to enjoy their energy (and I thank God for their health and vitality), I savor quiet time. I create opportunities to get away from life’s distractions, and I seek a selected silence, enabling me to draw near to God.
There are rich rewards in selected silence. “Be still and know that I am God” has calmed my heart many times; meditative scriptures are ideal for a wandering mind that occasionally gets gripped by fear. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:25.
- Selected silence leads me to listen.
- Listening makes space for seeking.
- Seeking flows naturally into prayer, and I don’t even need the right words. He knows already.
It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” ~ Isaiah 65:24.
My car is often the place I talk with God the most. Guideposts.org recently featured an article on praying while driving.
In the four hours it takes me to drive the distance to see my youngest adult daughter (we meet halfway between my home in Morgantown, West Virginia, and hers, in Nashville, Tennessee), I have plenty of uninterrupted time in the car to spend with the Holy Spirit. Windows up, radio off, I begin by taking in the beauty of our changing seasons along the scenic hillsides of Appalachia.
- I praise God for who He is: the Creator, Best Friend and Listener in the universe. I use the Four Steps of Prayer I’ve learned from over twenty years with Moms in Prayer.
I might even begin singing, breaking the silence momentarily for a refrain like Travis Cottrell’s rendition of Paul Wilber’s “In Your Presence, O God…”
When I open up my heart to Him, it becomes more pliable. And singing in your car is like singing in the shower; the sound’s pretty good, especially to the Lord’s ears.
“I cried out to God with my voice, to God with my voice, and He gave ear to me.” Psalm 77:1
- I begin to confess my most recent failures, and accept His unconditional love and forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
- I spend glorious time making a mental gratitude list, thanking my Lord for just about everything I can think of: Good health; family and friends; opportunities to travel, to see my kids, and answers to so many previous prayers.
- Then I begin to list the needs of others, and my own desires, adding “If it be your will, Lord…”
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near. ~ Isaiah 55:6
During my drive, all concerns fade away, like the asphalt under the tires in my rearview mirror. When at home, I keep a prayer journal, where the only sound is imperceptible: my pen to paper; my thoughts to God.