Shhh!! It's a Habit You Didn't Know You Needed
For the woman at the office, it’s the steady drip of phone calls and “quick questions.” For the mother of three, it’s the screech of quarreling toddlers. For the student, it’s the hub of the high school hallways. For all of us, no matter what the day holds, it most likely includes the constant, inescapable bombardment of noise. We go about the busyness of the workday, check off to-do lists, drive to and from here and there, and multitask our way to the day’s end.
The average woman’s day is inundated with noise. Perhaps we’ve been so surrounded by it that we haven’t even noticed just how noisy our lives really are. We’re so accustomed to the lack of quiet that two minutes of silence can range from awkward to unbearable and we quickly fill it with extra words, background music or the TV. Here’s something interesting: One study researched the effects of noise on the human nervous system and found that being around chronic low-level noise (not even loud, just continuous) can lead to negative moods, low concentration and fatigue. Also (and not a huge surprise) women are more sensitive to noise than men…a fact that any mom who’s ever locked herself in the bathroom to get three minutes of quiet and felt like it was a vacation can probably attest. We all need it, but odds are we’re either neglecting it or simply not able to find it.
Constant noise is draining. And even the most talented, efficient woman will eventually be running on empty without the recharge that comes with just being quiet and the renewal that comes with inclining herself to listen for God. For the Christian woman in the middle of constant clamor, the command of Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God,” can feel like an impossible challenge. But without it, we may be missing an important part of our personal and spiritual growth. Noted children’s educator, Maria Montessori, once observed the effects that silence can have in how we learn. “Silence has a special power to transform. But the silence of transformation cannot be coerced from the outside. The command, “Be quiet” is not the same as silence. Silence has to arise from within.” Just like Jesus, we need to withdraw from the noise and go to a secluded place by ourselves (Matt. 14:13) “Sure, Katie,” I can hear you moms with kiddos saying, “You should try spending a day my house and find moments of inner peace!” First of all, you’re Superwoman. Second, keep reading, I promise I haven’t forgotten about you!
In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster shows how practicing silence and solitude is not just for Himalayan monks. In fact, our need for quiet goes even deeper than getting away from outside noise. Pursuing God with this kind of solitary silence always involves actively listening to God. “Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence.” It’s an attitude of the heart, a lifestyle of “de-cluttering” the day so that we can hear God more clearly.
So how do we, in our fast-paced lives and joined-at-the-hip technology, actually create a lifestyle of listening to God in silence? One way is to seize those moments that Foster calls “little solitudes.” Maybe it’s turning the radio off during the car commute to work, or leave the TV off when you’re working around the house. Also, try taking advantage of your morning routine. Instead of having the news on or music going, get ready for the day with no other noise in the background. Maybe you’re meditating on a single verse of Scripture for a few minutes, allowing you to start your day ready to listen. Even a 30-second elevator ride can be an opportunity to clear your mind and actively focus on God, ready to listen to what He would tell you. The moments to be still and know that He is God are all around us. As Foster says, “They are times for inner quiet, for reorienting our lives like a compass needle.”
One mother of five said that, even for her, every days has moments of quietness and solitude. It’s just a matter of choosing to redeem them. For this season of your life, solitary silence seems more like a distant dream. I asked a few moms of toddlers-to-school-aged children what they do to keep their home a little more peaceful. Here are some of their helpful hints…
- If you can, get up an hour before everyone else in the family.
- Designate the kitchen (or another room of the house) as the “quiet zone,” a space where the kids know to use softer voices.
- Rethink how you spend your time. For one mom, it meant putting down the phone and changing some habits.
- Ask a friend/family member for help for an hour in the week.
- Have a daily “down-time”, whether it’s napping or reading, or some other quiet activity
- Most importantly, seize that time to renew yourself spiritually rather than indulging in “me-time” activities. As one mom said, “It is important to remember that, as moms, it is not about us, especially in that season of life…Everyone is given the same amount of hours –it all goes back to how we use them.”
What are those moments in your life? What routines can be redeemed with a mindset that’s focused on tuning into God’s voice? The same still, small voice that God used to speak to an overwhelmed Elijah may be exactly how He wants to speak to you and me today – in the solitary silence of a quiet heart that is ready to listen. So tomorrow morning, before you get up and go, before the coffee maker beeps, before that first email reaches your phone, before you calculate how fast you’ll have to drive to get there on time, stop…be silent…and just listen. (Psalm 46:10)
Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.com and is pursuing a PhD in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. When she’s not reading for her classes (a rare occasion!), she loves hanging out with friends, eating sushi, learning new words and shopping with her mom. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Follow her Twitter!