The kids needed a break about three miles into our family bike adventure. We found a resting spot off of the trail and climbed off of our bikes. We were chatting and drinking water when I noticed that the trail was empty in both directions. We were miles from any roads. “Hey, People. Stop talking. Don’t even move. Listen.” All five of us stood still. Soaking in the song of birds, the river, and the wind dancing through leaves. For just a moment, we could not hear any man-made noise. The quiet was like a balm. There aren’t many truly quiet places like this in our lives. If we hadn’t stopped to listen, we would have missed it entirely. That is the way with quiet.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…”
The apostle Paul apparently said these words, but sometimes I wonder if he was joking.
Isn’t that anti-ambition?
Aren’t we supposed to dream big? Believe bigger? Live an outrageous faith?
We want to be exciting. Heroic. Extraordinary. Successful. Sorta-famous, but not really famous. Maybe just impressive. I suppose I would settle for accomplished. I would love to be somebody who accomplishes a lot of stuff. I want to cross everything off of a lengthy and important to-do list. Busy. Noisy. That equals important, right?
Surely, Paul’s quiet-life ambition must be a misunderstanding.
There are times for boldness and heroic action and dramatic faith. But what is this call to a quiet life? What is that about?
“…in quietness and trust is your strength.”
That’s what the prophet Isaiah told a nation thousands of years ago. These words are true in my life. They mirror my story.
Quiet means so much. We can find quiet in a number of ways, if we can find it at all.
Quiet is the time just before the sun rises and the house is still asleep. The clock ticks. The refrigerator hums. A few cars rumble by on the street outside. But my world is quiet. I often miss these moments, waking to the sound of my son’s alarm instead.
And then I spend my day searching for quiet. For 10 minutes during the day while the kids watch television and I sneak into my bedroom to breathe.
Quiet is the 2 1/2 hours of preschool when I have the house to myself–if I can settle down and sink into it.
Quiet is learning to consume less. Less words, less noise.
Quiet makes space.
For listening. For paying attention.
Transformation unfolds in this space.
Life emerges from the quiet corners.
Quiet is air. Is life. Is breath.
Quiet is stillness in a hurried world.
Quiet is this moment. Here. Right now.
A quiet life is a listening life. A life that is both deep down and spacious. Grounded and open.
Quiet leads to trust. In the quiet we learn to discern the voices competing for our attention. We learn to distinguish fear, should, and what if. We learn to hear the sound of our heart whispering the way forward. We learn to pay attention to the way God moves in our world.
We need to practice quiet. We need to search for it. Protect it. And in this practice, eventually we will find ourselves bringing this quiet with us into the midst of a noisy, bustling world.
“In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.”
~ Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World