It’s night-time. A diamond-sprinkled sky is my ceiling. A valley stretches west with tree branches soaring high, reaching tall toward the precious stars above. If I had my own personal temple where I prayed, conversed and cried to God, this might be it. A mini valley with wind singing in the leaves and a choir of insects accompanying it. I stop and greet this place, only to see a shooting star slowly wave across the sky from left to right. I smile as my Creator, our Creator, the Creator, says “hello”. Immediately, I am humbled, at rest and in awe.
It’s moments like these when I momentarily shirk my surrounding demands to pause, be still, be silent and cast my eyes to the heavens. It’s moments like these that draw me closer to my Creator, top up my heart and fill my tank.
My first car, a 1992 Asia Rocsta, was voiceless for the first 12 months I owned it. The absence of a working stereo deprived me of that classic teenie-bopping tune-time with friends . . . and boy, did this seem like a big deal at the time. However, slowly I started to learn to appreciate the silence. Like most teenagers on the brink of independence, I loved long road trips with music blasting and friends filling my passenger seats. These times provided opportunities to talk, ponder and delve into topics together. But when my seats were empty, I found myself music-less, in silence. At first it was uncomfortable but soon I found myself embracing the quiet and started to use this time to reflect and bring my cares to God. God became the friend in my passenger seat when there wasn’t one, the ear to listen to my rambles, thoughts and ponderings. I began to look forward to my drives so filled with prayer and time alone with God.
I learned to hear His gentle whispers. A kind thought of truth would settle my anxiety, or a Bible verse would come to mind to answer a question I was asking. I started to be more intentional with silence, often going for forest walks or beach strolls, bringing things to God in those moments that I wouldn’t share with anyone else. There were moments I would bring a certain matter unknown to all but He and I, and then I’d return home to an exact answer to that exact prayer. I realised God was listening to me and my words and that brought peace to parts of my heart I didn’t even know needed it . . . a kind of peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Today in our western world, our days are filled with all sorts of noise. Have you ever paused to notice the backing track of your moments? For example, as I write this, I sit at a café. There is a constant barrage of bustle from baristas, banter and benchtops. The group next to me is talking loudly about the festival they attended on the weekend. The family on the other side has kids running circles around my table. A ringing phone demands attention but is soon drowned out by the loud competition between a passing motorbike and a garbage truck on the street. The chef’s bell dings for the waitress to deliver the ready meals . . . and I’m here trying to remember what I was writing about.
It turns out, this exhausting, constant purr of noise pollution has research teaching us its direct ties to physical and psychological wellbeing. Exposure to constant or excessive noise causes a whole lot of health problems ranging from increased stress, anxiety, poor concentration, poor sleep, cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment. And just the noise of traffic alone ranks second among environmental threats to humans.
All of a sudden, the lessons my dear four-wheeled Rocky tried to teach me hold much more value for my life than I thought. Even though silence can be challenging to find, it might be an important commodity to seek out.
Waltzes and waterfalls
A wise songwriter from the ’90s once sung, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” But I bring a proposition that you do just that. Chase the waterfalls. As well as “the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”. Immersing ourselves in nature brings silence to our ears and a sense of stillness and calm to our mind and inner self. When we step out of the rat race, things become a meaningful, slow pace, and our eyes are often opened to notice the beautiful, peace-speaking things happening all around us.
Many masterpieces surround us daily and would awe us if we stopped to notice. Sometimes we just lack a moment, the peace and quiet, to see. An intricate snowflake falls without demanding attention. Bees dance a choreographed waltz mid-air, landing on flowers where they fill their pockets with golden drops of pollen. A rainforest stream sets a low murmur of white noise that would settle any Gen Alpha bub. The wind washes over treetops and through leaves as a powerful, invisible tide.
Stillness and silence can be challenging to step into when our minds are filled with so much clutter. This is no longer limited to audible sound but the mental noise that continuously blares at us from our frantic distraction-ridden, perpetual busyness. Being still doesn’t come naturally in our day and age when “day of rest” is translated to “the day for washing”. But a simple truth from me to you: an unpaid task does not mean it isn’t work.
Our days are filled with jobs, tasks, tasks within tasks, to-do lists and keeping up with what seems to be Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag of never-ending emails, text messages and DMs from an endless array of social media platforms. Our thumbs tire from the scroll and our minds are without rest from the meaningless and unnecessary information. And we eat, sleep and do it over and over again.
I sigh, long and wearily. I tire from merely describing it all.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
The mere sight of those words and the picture of stillness brings me peace. I don’t know about you, but I find myself thinking, I could really do with a green pasture and some still waters about now.
Come back to the garden
When God first made humans, He placed them in a garden. A place that displays beauty, creativity and harmony, with the trees and all that grows declaring life in the purest of ways. The more I think about this, the more necessary it seems to prioritise and embrace the still, the slow, the calm and the silent. To stop and notice the beautiful intricacies surrounding us and allow them to speak into our daily lives; to quieten our minds and hear from God. The reality is that the noises in our world aren’t going to fall silent anytime soon. And so, an essential ingredient in this life-altering practice is the discipline to stop and the patience to wait and listen even when there’s so much happening all around us.
Let us find ways to step away from the noise. Let us be inspired by God’s creativity and restored by the works of His hand. Let us “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
Ellice Cook is an occupational therapist. She enjoys pottery, photography and long walks in her free time. She writes from the Gold Coast, Queensland.