I don’t like the way our dog Moby barks at every tiny noise. His hearing is too good. I take his uncanny ability to notice a passing squirrel as an affront to my own awesome sense of hearing.
He’s a little poodle mutt, but he’s quite the guard dog. Nothing gets past Moby. He barks at bugs and the Roomba. He barks at people across the street and cats 4 blocks away. He may still pee on my carpet, but the dog knows how to listen. Moby spends a lot of time listening, and he’s good at it because he spends a lot of time in silence.
I, on the other hand, have forgotten how to listen.
I’m so out of practice regarding listening that I barely notice if I’m not.
How can I hear God or even meet with God if I live day after day sans silence?
Noise and technology are like suburbia for our souls—they protect us from reality. The music, meaningless conversation, and endless technological opportunities dull our senses. The less silence we have, the less in touch we are with what it is to be human. We can’t remember what it is to think or dream because of the roar of worthless input.
Maybe that’s why I like night so much.
I don’t mean the kind of night where I watch movies till I crash or meet friends at the Dancing Bear. I mean the part of night where I’m almost asleep—the thin space between consciousness and deep rest. This is when I hear God the most. Probably because it’s the only time I’m quiet.
I spend my days gorging myself with noise and information and attempts at self-improvement and as a result, I have little space to listen. I’ve become emotionally disconnected from myself. I’ve grown accustomed to a life where I don’t need to keep an ear toward the Creator.
But at night, I’m defenseless. I don’t fight as hard. At night, the fears come out. My heart twists with mistakes I’ve made and guilt I carry. Night is the place where I can’t hide. There is little to stop me from facing myself.
But I’ve learned that this self-confrontation is mostly uncomfortable because it’s so unusual. We’re not used to seeing ourselves, feeling our feelings or watching grace fall into our laps. We run from anxieties instead of challenging them. We shut our eyes to guilt instead of crying for mercy. Maybe when we recognize the gift of night and silence, we won’t be so compelled to run away.
While we talk about wanting, even needing, to hear from God, we don’t do much to listen. Perhaps we don’t create space for God to speak because we fear God’s voice. Maybe we do this to protect ourselves in case God does speak. What will God say? What will I be required to do?
We fear what we don’t know. We fear what we can’t see, so instead of listening for the voice of God, we pad ourselves on all sides with voices that are tangible, even though these voices may judge or condemn.
But silence is the conduit of much needed surgery.
Silence exposes the very sins, horrible thoughts and insecurities we try to avoid. Silence cuts through the shell we’ve built to preserve our own ugliness.
Noise keeps us from mourning. Noise keeps us from being still.
Silence makes way for the voice of healing.
Of course it’s painful to have truth touch our throbbing pain. But if we don’t have silence to identify our self-destruction, how will it be removed? If we don’t have silence to bring pain to the surface, how will we ever be comforted?
The thin space of night can be the continual state of our hearts. But if we refuse to cultivate silence, we’ll miss the art of listening altogether. I want silence to peel the strangling hands off of my heart so that I can breathe, hear from God and live.