It is almost 10:00, Monday night. The children are snoozing and snoring upstairs (or they should be!). Aside from a few outside noises—a passing car . . . a barking dog . . . a few, faint voices in the distance—all's quiet on the home front. That wonderful, much-needed presence has again come for a visit—quietness. Oh, how I love it . . . how I need it.
One of my most poignant memories of quietness occurred in California when I was walking with a friend along the sandy shores at Carmel. The silence of that early dawn was broken only by the rhythmic roar of the rolling surf and the cry of a few gulls floating overhead. The same thought I had then I have now: I cannot be the man I should be without times of quietness. Stillness is an essential part of our growing deeper as we grow older. Or—in the words of a man who helped shape my life perhaps more than any other:
We will not become men of God without the presence of solitude.
Those words haunt me when I get caught in the treadmill of time schedules . . . when I make my turn toward the homestretch of the week and try to meet the deadline of demands, just like you. Alas, we are simply geared too high. Thanks to Alka-Seltzer, Excedrin, Sleep-eze, and Compoz, we repeat our nonproductive haste with monotonous regularity. As Peter Marshall put it:
We are in such a hurry, we hate to miss one panel of a revolving door.
Talk about pollution! I want you to think about what our nervous systems undergo just to stay afloat: Noise (music, news, talk, laughter, machinery, appliances, phones, and traffic) from 6:00 a.m. 'til midnight. Speed (bumper-to-bumper at 65 mph, on-ramps and off-ramps, deadlines and appointments) that makes us frown rather than smile . . . that causes us to check our watches more often than checking in with our Lord. Activities (meetings, services, suppers, luncheons, breakfasts, rallies, and clubs—all "necessary" and "nice") that have a way of dismissing quietness like an unwanted guest. Sure—some things are important—super, in fact—but not everything. Listen, if you and I really treasure quietness, we will have to make time for it. When you feed it only the "leftovers" from the schedule, it always goes hungry.
Now, believe me, I'm not bitter. I'm just being direct and honest with you about an ingredient that cannot be ignored much longer in our lives without our paying a dear, dear price. I am jealous that we: "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10 NIV). I am desperately concerned that we slow down and quiet down and gear down our lives so that intermittently each week we carve out time for quietness, solitude, thought, prayer, meditation, and soul searching. Oh, how much agitation will begin to fade away . . . how insignificant petty differences will seem . . . how big God will become and how small our troubles will appear! Security, peace, and confidence will move right on in.
This is what Isaiah, the prophet, meant when he wrote:
And the work of righteousness will be peace,
And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.
Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation,
And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places (32:17–18).
You know something? That still, small voice will never shout. God's methods don't change because we are so noisy and busy. He is longing for your attention, your undivided and full attention. He wants to talk with you in times of quietness (with the TV off) about your need for understanding, love, compassion, patience, self-control, a calm spirit, genuine humility . . . and wisdom. But He won't run to catch up. He will wait and wait until you finally sit in silence and listen.
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