The world is too noisy. I’ve been feeling this way lately.
Everything feels loud: my iPhone, my journalism classes consistently talking about the news, and my Facebook feed filled with politics. I’m tired of trying to keep up.
I want the opposite of noise. I want quiet.
This year, I’ve been researching spiritual habits, or you might know them as spiritual disciplines, or in less fancy terms, ways of becoming more like Jesus. I’ve been reading books and listening to podcasts.
Spiritual habits look like a variety of different things – reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, being with community, practicing a day of rest or Sabbath, fasting for a period of time, memorizing Scripture, and silence and solitude.
The last one, silence and solitude, is the one I specifically decided to work on. I hadn’t heard of it before. It turns out, particularly for a very verbal person, being silent on your own in a room is not the easiest experience.
The idea of silence and solitude, or at least the way I have interpreted it, is that you come before the Father and rest in the presence of God.
It sounded like peace to me. If the opposite of noise is quiet, then being silent in the presence of Jesus was exactly what I wanted.
So I sat on my bed, and I set a timer for 10 minutes. In the beginning, I just breathed. I inhaled for four seconds, and I exhaled for four seconds. Then slowly, once my body started to relax, I started quietly whispering, “I am in the presence of the Holy God. I am a beloved daughter in the presence of Jesus. I am loved and I am in the presence of the Father.” And I would repeat this, over and over and over again.
The first few days I did this were fantastic. I would read a chapter in Matthew and then a Psalm, and then I would practice silence and solitude for 10 minutes. An overwhelming, indescribable sort of peace washed over me. But then, over time, emotions started coming too.
When you spend time with God, He starts to reveal feelings to you that you didn’t quite recognize before. Those are hard to sort through. I’m still working on it.
After emotion came distraction. I would be focusing on being in God’s presence and then find myself wondering what I was going to eat for lunch. (I’m working on having grace for myself.)
For my whole life, whenever I have a big, life-changing decision, or even a small, tiny one, I have wanted God to tell me clearly what He wanted me to do. I didn’t care what He would tell me – if He would just give me a clear sign, I would do anything. What career did he want me to have? Who did He want me to marry? What things did He want me to accomplish?
I often said to him, “If you would just tell me clearly, preferably in a loud voice, what you want me to do, I’ll do it.”
Elijah, a prophet in the Bible, was spoken to by God many times. He had seen phenomenal things. At one point, after Elijah had experienced the pinnacle of his career, he decided he was finished. He was exhausted. The world was too much. He didn’t want to do it anymore. (Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve felt this way before, too.)
But God, of course, wasn’t finished with Elijah yet.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 King 19: 11-13)
God was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Instead, He was in the quiet.
I get caught up in the idea of wanting God to show me something big. And don’t get me wrong; God can do huge, remarkable things. But recently He’s been teaching me to meet Him in the quiet, to come before Him, silent and stripped down. No accolades, no accomplishments, no aspirations. Just me.
When the world is noisy and feels like it’s emptying us, God meets us in the quiet and slowly fills us back up.
I asked myself a hard question the other day: if I never did the things I wanted to do, who would I be? If I never get my book published, or get on the New York Times Best Sellers books list, or any of the other extreme dreams I have in mind, who will I be?
In the quiet, when I meet with God, He tells me who I am, not who I should be.
I am loved, and I am beloved. I am cherished, and whole, and delighted in. This is who He says I am – not through wind, or fire, or an earthquake, but in a still, small whisper, calling me loved.
For you, too. If the world is too noisy and you need some quiet, sit in the presence of God and ask Him to show you who you are, not who you should be. I’ll give you a hint: you are loved, and cherished, and treasured, and whole.
The world may be noisy, but we know a God who will meet us in the stillness…
…quietly sealing our identity.