Silence. It’s hard to come by. But it was the one thing I sorely needed after nine days of travel to visit family and friends, including a relative who was on her final journey into eternity. While all the visits were very pleasant, I longed for a period of quiet reflection. The last stop before returning home was the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardsville, Kentucky, home of the Trappist monks, the most famous being Thomas Merton. As I exited the car, the serenity of the environment immediately enveloped me. The only sounds I heard were the birds singing and a slight rustling of the leaves as a gentle wind blew through them. It already felt like a healing balm to my spirit.
I slowly made my way to the church and was relieved to discover I was the only one inside. I tiptoed into the darkened space out of respect for the stillness. I could no longer hear the birds chirping or the sound of the wind. There was nothing. My ears almost ached as I naturally strained to hear any sound. It was perfectly still. I began to be conscious of my hands in my lap and feeling how quietly I was breathing. I tried to settle in and just place myself in the presence of God but it was hard to let go of my thoughts and try to relax in this most beautiful setting. I knew that meditation and contemplation needed time so I kept bringing my thoughts back to the Lord and the sweetness of the moment. Suddenly, the organist began practicing on his instrument and I was jolted out of my silence. I wanted to protect that space and felt annoyed that it was interrupted. Out of frustration I got up to leave and opened the large wooden doors and eyed a lovely spot outside under some trees. The Monastery sits up on a hill and the view was breathtaking. I sat down on a bench and began to once again relish the stillness. But it didn’t last long. Several chatty women decided to sit nearby, and while their voices were somewhat muffled, they couldn’t be ignored. Once again I moved to another area. Finally, I regained some semblance of peace and I was so grateful to have the time to reflect and to allow my restless spirit to be refreshed. How seldom it is that I am able to be completely still!
Noise is all around us! We unconsciously turn on the radio or listen to music when we get in the car. We flip on the tv without a thought. We check our phones day and night and watch videos on FB. We do these things out of habit. Some of us have children or grandkids and those beautiful sounds are part of life. But even with all of that, is there a time when we can be quiet, even teaching the children how to do this sometimes? Can we begin to make efforts to remove sound from our daily lives? Can we change the way we move through our daily lives and slowly make time for silence? I’m not saying we need to live like monks, but God’s voice comes when we are still, and shouldn’t we make space for that, even for a few minutes out of our day? God may be silent, too, allowing us to perfectly rest in His arms. We need that restoration, not only of our minds, but our bodies and our spirits, as well.
Oh Lord, we live in a busy world. We ask that You would show us ways to be still.