A Quiet Place


Over seven and half years ago, we brought our first child home from the hospital—an enchanting little girl with her father’s brown eyes and her mother’s strong opinions. In the ensuing years, we added a quieter, contemplative blue-eyed brother, and a roly-poly, enthusiastic baby brother. The combination has resulted in a home overflowing with laughter, unabated joy, and countless emotional meltdowns.And while we’ve gained so much, we’ve lost one thing: Quiet.

To quote the photo I posted a couple of days ago, “In this home, we do loud REALLY well.” Add to that a digital age of Facebook, email, cell phones, texting and Twitter, and life here in these four walls is pretty much a constant buzz. Occasionally I feel like my five-year-old son when he simply can’t handle it all anymore. He clamps his hands on his ears, his elbows jutting out perpendicular to his body, and yells, “Be quiet – it’s too noisy!”

So a couple of days ago when I slipped away for a 24-hour hiatus, it was bliss. But it was also something else I hadn’t counted on: it was awkward. As soon as I shut the door behind me, as soon as I was alone in the silence, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. My hands twitched as if needing motion to justify their existence; my mind whirled trying to think of all the things I should be doing, and then it somersaulted backwards, whirling in the other direction as I tried to stop thinking of about all the things I should be doing.

I quickly realized that in the chaotic joy of the last seven years I had lost the ability to be quiet. It was actually hard for me to be still. And it wasn’t just being still that was difficult.

One thing that I had hoped to do during this time away was to read and pray. While I’ve had to learn new ways to commune with God in this busy period of life, I miss the freedom of simply sitting down, relaxing, and giving myself completely over to Him.   It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to engage in prayer without half-listening in the background for “Mommy, I need….” – it’s as if I’ve been "on call" for the last seven years.  I haven’t felt guilty about it – life naturally cycles through different stages and just like any relationship, my ability to spend intimate time with God fluctuates too. I take great comfort in this caveat by the notable Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was frustrated with a group of medical students who complained that they didn’t have time for personal time with God. His response was brusque:

_“I am a doctor. I have been where you are. You have time for what you want to do.” After a long pause he said, “I make only one exception: the mother of preschool-aged children does not have time and emotional resources.”
_And so it has been with me. But even when I was given the time, I found that it had been so long, so incredibly long, that when I alone in the room with Him, I  was shy, awkward, uncertain, almost embarrassed. What do I say now? What am I supposed to do? Are You going to start this or should I? I’m so used to finding You in the busyness, that I don’t quite know how to find to you in the quiet.I was still thinking about it several days later, fidgeting in my spirit, anxious about my anxiety, when the Holy Spirit stopped me and seemed simply to say, “You know, people who love each other don’t always have to talk. Sometimes, it’s just nice to sit and be quiet together. Why don’t we try that first?”

This week we entered the Lenten season, the time committed to reflection, self-denial, and quiet devotion leading up to Easter. Most Christians who celebrate Lent do so by giving up something, denying themselves a particular luxury in order to more fully identify with Christ’s self-denial in coming to earth.  But this year, instead of giving something up, I’m going to try to reclaim something. I’m going to try to find the quiet places again. I’m going to practice being still.

I’m not sure what form it will end up taking—it will probably be less exegetical Bible study and more quiet contemplation—but I know that it will challenge me in places I haven’t been for years. But having reached my point of sensory overload, it will be welcome. So if you’re like me, feel free to join in. Feel free to clamp your hands on your ears and yell, “Be quiet!” And maybe then, we’ll all remember how to be still, and in being still, we'll know Him once again.