I’ve spent the last many weeks juggling Christmas parties and shopping lists, trying to remember which kid needs a $5 ornament and which one has to bring a traditional holiday dish for his class feast. In the midst of the holiday happiness and chaos, I’ve also been trying hard to listen — straining for the answer to the question my spirit is aching over:
God, what are You saying? Help me to hear. I don’t want to miss it.
I have a case of spiritual angst over hearing God’s voice. Not because I doubt His ability to speak to my heart, but because sometimes I question whether I’ll be able to hear Him above all the noise.
Life is just so loud.
I’m not talking about the constant clamor coming from my three growing boys. (Though the volume they produce is staggering.) I’m talking about the noise of constant information and solicitation. The amplification of confrontation. The perpetual bombardment of breaking news and viral videos. Divisive posts and explosive comment threads. So much fine print and endless must-see lists. My eyes are blurry and my ears are ringing — and it’s not from twinkling lights or jingle bells.
None of it is particularly out of the ordinary. It’s become the white noise to our regular lives. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s spiritually palatable.
I can’t stand radio commercials or TV commercials. They trigger immediate irritation. Just ask my husband. My senses also feel assaulted by huge billboards flanking the freeway and flashing neon signs groping for my attention. Pop-up ads and email spam, flyers tucked under my windshield wipers and stuffed in my front door handle. It’s all too much for me to handle.
I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way. Does everyone else know how to tune it all out? Or do they somehow embrace the nonstop petitioning for our attention, our purchase, our opinion? Do others just happily ride the current of hot trends and best deals without any soul nausea from feeling jostled inside?
Anyone else exhausted by it all?
It’s not that I have anything against the blowout sale at Macy’s or the new Chinese restaurant with the coupons for free wontons. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading all the magazines and subscribing to all the podcasts and you bet I’d look better, feel better if I said yes to every workout plan and supplement and oil promoted on Facebook. Business and commerce and blog posts aren’t bad. But if I had one wish this Christmas, it might be for those noise-canceling headphones that I envy every time I’m on an airplane.
Yet the noise entering my ears isn’t as much the issue as the noise clamoring in my soul.
Noise demands to be heard. It’s territorial. It crowds out whatever else is trying to take up space. I think this is why I’m aching for quiet this Christmas. I want to tune out, push back anything that isn’t Jesus. I want to make room for Him not only on the day we celebrate His birth but every day.
Pretty much everything I share online could be tagged #preachingtomyownheart because there’s nothing I can tell someone else that I don’t need to hear. So here’s what I’m preaching to myself these days that I hope is helpful to you too.
Practical ways to quiet the noise:
1. Mute commercials.
Use that TV remote, turn off the radio, and click the volume down on your phone whenever advertisements start blaring. Just because there’s a commercial on doesn’t mean you have to listen. It sounds basic, and it is. But the absence of extra noise and information will be a gift you didn’t know you needed.
2. Set up a separate email account.
Nowadays every store and website wants your email address. No big deal, but don’t use your personal or work email for online and retail sign-ups. With a dedicated account, all the sales and marketing pitches will be in one place for you to find them if you’re looking for something. Your regular inbox will be less cluttered and so will your mind.
3. Give up multitasking.
Okay, I know this one isn’t always possible, but resist the urge to double up on every task. You don’t have to listen to a podcast or watch TV or catch up on Instagram stories every time you’re driving to work, sitting in the school pick up line, or doing dishes. Let there be margin for quiet.
4. Go outside every day.
Even if it’s just for five minutes and you have to bundle up, spend a little time with fresh air in your lungs and sun (or snow glare) on your skin. Leave your phone inside. Just listen. Look around you. Short bursts of intentional stillness will expand your capacity to handle the noisy world around you.
The answer to my aching question might sound different depending on the day, but God’s reply is essentially always the same: Make space for Me.
We won’t miss God’s voice when we make space for quiet.
Whatever kind of noise is causing commotion in your life this time of year, take time to remember the One who knows what your soul really needs.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)
I love that God impressed these words upon the heart of Christ’s earthly ancestor, King David, and then a thousand years later, announced the arrival of His Son to a group of shepherds under the stillness of a starry sky. The gift of God’s guidance, His with-ness, is timeless.
God, thank You for giving us Jesus. Because of Him we lack nothing. Lead us this Christmas into moments of quiet. Refresh our hearts with Your presence. Amen.
Let there be margin for quiet. -@BeckyKeife: Click To Tweet