This week I went to a lake with a friend. One afternoon we stood on the dock and the moment we stopped talking he said, “Do you hear that?” “I can’t hear a thing.” I replied. “Exactly, it’s pure silence.” he said. We stood there in the beautiful and awkward space void of noise for as long as we could tolerate it.
A world without noise is so incredibly foreign to me. Reflecting on those few minutes by the lake I realize that I both long for silence and dread it. These two competing desires pull on opposing sides of my soul and the tension is palpable.
So much of the world is just noise. There’s the noise from within, the relentless chatter in my own head and heart, the internal monologue that narrates my life. It is rarely kind, and often prone to anxious questions and accusations. Left unchecked, this deep murmuring seeks to sabotage joy and promote a view of life that works to undo the hope I crave.
And then there’s the noise that permeates the world. Everyone has something to say and it’s rarely thoughtful. They say talk is cheap and it’s true. In the economy of words the world is inundated with banal prattling where the supply far outpaces demand. In exchanges on social media, texts, unintentional conversation, and endless streams of entertainment, our culture incessantly weighs in on every conceivable topic, misguiding our hearts into the wilderness.
By the lake I was confronted with the severe reality that my primal longing for silence is rooted in a need for rest, beauty, and peace. I want these things so badly and yet when confronted with them, even in small doses, they are often too much for my “heavy, dirty soul” to bear. [And yes that is a Twenty One Pilots reference] I remember reading once that too much food, too soon, can actually kill a starving person. And so it is with a soul deprived of the quiet. Too much silence laden with beauty inviting deep rest can so easily overwhelm a soul conditioned to the noise.
Upon returning from the lake I realized that I must move into the quiet places with more regularity if I am to take hold of the sort of life I desperately long for. And in a fortunate and more likely ordained moment of lucidity I simultaneously realized that the season in which we find ourselves is tailor made for such an enterprise. For this is Advent. This is the season inviting us into the silence, to quiet our souls, to be still and to ready our hearts to behold a beauty and rest unlike any we have ever experienced.
There is a world where silence sets the table for the kind of beauty, joy, and rest that we only dare to dream of. In that world, there is a King whose radiance crowns the silence with glory and invites us to simply “be still and know that he is God.” One day I will sit in the King’s presence and I will be silent. And the quiet will be a stillness that gives way to life and wholeness. Today I sit for a moment without noise, imagining what that will be like, until I am pulled away by the chattering of the world and my heart.