At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD — but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake — but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire — but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
There’s been a movement in my heart lately to pursue quiet. As an introvert, I’ve long known that I need to be away in order to recharge. As much as I enjoy the people I’m blessed to live this life with, they make me tired. But lately, it’s more than a need to recharge, more than a desire to be alone. It’s a desire for quiet. I find myself rejoicing when we have a “quiet weekend planned” — one that involves just my husband and I, along with the dog and Sunday brunch with our one kid who lives in state. When the weeknight consists only of working out, eating dinner and crocheting, I am glad.
I’m not sure where this quest originated. Perhaps it’s the noisy high school I work in with a bell ringing every 48 minutes and teenage goofiness tromping outside my door. Perhaps it’s the sirens and speeding cars and motorcycles that come with living in a city. Perhaps it’s the internet blaring headlines at me every time I open a new browser page. I think it’s all these things in addition to a deepening desire to hear God’s voice because I feel like it’s getting drowned out not just for me but for the world.
It’s nut bonkers right now. There are all kinds of things to worry about and all kinds of yelling, whether literal or figurative. We have two wars raging, yet another contentious presidential race beginning, and ideologies that deny our humanity. People are angry and easily irritated and insistent that their truth is the only truth.
But here’s the thing. The only truth is God’s truth, and as a people, we are too busy making noise to hear it. I want to hear it. I want to hear that still, small voice — that quiet whisper that I am loved and that it’s going to be OK. The gentle reminder to love my neighbor and sometimes keep my own mouth shut. The nudge to do a little nice thing because maybe if we all start doing little nice things, it will add up into something big and nice.
I want to hear what God has to say because he is good and wise and has important things to tell me. St. Therese of Lisieux has been stalking me lately, and I’ve become increasingly convinced that I, too, am small and desperately need our Lord for everything. But I can’t always hear his voice, so I am yearning for quiet. I want the leaf blower, the barking dog and the cement truck to just quiet down.
So I’ve instituted some changes in my quest for quiet, and they seem to be working. I wake up early to pray, I pray a Rosary in the car on my way to work and I’ve added a weekly Mass to my routine. I’ve slowed down our social life, choosing instead to be home more. It fits with the season we are at the beginning of — darker, colder, cozier.
I accept that in many ways I am blessed to be able to do this quietening. When I was in the throes of child rearing, there could be some loud days. But there were also peaceful days. Days where we lounged on the couch and read books, days when we stayed home and entertained each other. I think it is possible, even if one has littles, because they can learn the value and the benefit of quiet. Kids and teens suffer as much as, possibly more than, adults from the noise.
I am advocating for all of us to be intentional about quieting down. We can control what comes into our homes via the front door, social media and the television. We don’t need to be constantly connected. It’s stressful and exhausting. I advocate that we turn off Facebook and Instagram and the like. We turn off the television and the radio. We turn down the invitations to be elsewhere, and we look to our families and be present to them.
Let’s be quiet for a while. We don’t need to cut ourselves off from the world permanently, but let’s take a little break and hear what God has to say. I suspect it’s important.