I’m alone in the silence.
Well, not so silent. The clock in my office is ticking. And my dog, Toby, is softly snoring.
I often don’t notice those sounds. I’m usually working away at my desk – writing, studying, paying bills, pausing to look out the window to enjoy a bright, sunny Southwest Florida day.
But not today.
Today, I’m up early. Too early, actually. I had to take my wife, Jeanne, to the Ft. Meyers airport because her brother, Jon, died on Thanksgiving and the funeral is in a few days back in Minnesota. So, we were up, out the door, and on the road at 4 a.m.
If you read my little screed on sunlight and dawn a few entries back, you'll know that I'm a morning person. But not a dark-before-the-dawn morning person. I generally try to avoid that. To me, it usually means I didn’t get enough sleep. However, there is a certain beauty in the quiet before the dawn which I do appreciate.
In the quiet of the morning, I often sense the Lord’s presence and hear His voice more clearly. No, it’s not audible. No, it’s not some woo-woo weird kind of experience. It’s simply a greater awareness of His closeness and His voice comes to me as thoughts that fill my mind. After all, He lives in me via the resident Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit lives in me, it’s not as if He comes and goes. It’s the distractions that come and go that cloud and obscure my awareness of my ever-present Lord.
I had one of those Quiet Time instances this morning on the way to and from the airport. Even though Jeanne was talking, I didn’t have the radio on. Not having that usual radio noise was enough to trigger my focus on God even while I enjoyed our chat. After I said goodbye to my sweetheart and pulled away from the curb, the quiet settled in. The tires hummed on the pavement but their drone wasn’t distracting. On the contrary, it added to my mental and spiritual focus.
No distractions. That’s what so appealing about the dark-before-the-dawn moment!
It’s not just in the morning. It’s any time we can free ourselves from the incessant daily auditory, visual, and other sensory stimulation that overloads our mental and spiritual circuits. If you’ve ever been a part of a Zoom call or an online conference when everyone talks at once, you know precisely what I mean! Sometimes, you just have to (politely or otherwise) tell everyone to pipe down so you can focus on what one person is saying.
I’m a trained musician. I play piano and trombone (and accordion, although some people wish I didn’t). I have an ear for music. I’ve enjoyed music since childhood. One of the things I like to do is pick out and follow a particular instrument in an orchestra or ensemble. I like to hear their particular melodic line and how it weaves in and out of the entire piece.
For me, that’s the way it is in my Quiet Place with the Lord. In my Quiet Place, I can more easily lock on to Jesus’ voice. By so doing, I can more easily track with Him throughout the day as His voice weaves in and out of the myriad of distractions and sensory stimuli. Those quiet moments help isolate and magnify His voice as He speaks within me.
A powerful musical technique is the creative use of quiet that helps isolate and magnify one single beautiful melodic line. There’s even a piano piece by 20th-century composer John Cage called 4’33” (4 minutes, 33 seconds) that premiered on August 29, 1952, at the Maverick Concert hall in Hurley, NY. It’s wildly unique because the artist didn’t play a single note on the keyboard! Instead, “Seating himself at the piano he placed a score on the stand, set a stopwatch, closed the lid – and sat quietly for 33 seconds. Briefly opening then re-shutting the lid, he re-set the stopwatch and sat for two minutes 40 seconds, occasionally turning the score’s pages. He repeated the process, this time for one minute 20 seconds. Finally, he stood, bowed to polite applause from the remaining audience, and walked off stage.” (What is the point of John Cage’s 4'33?) You can find a performance of 4’33” with a quick search on YouTube.
What was composer John Cage’s point? Simple. “There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began patterning the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”
Even when we think there’s deep quiet, God’s voice continues to speak and resonate throughout His creation, even within our souls (Psalm 29). Sadly, some refuse to listen. They talk over the Lord or walk out on Him. Or they let a myriad of distractions drown Him out.
There’s a worship song by Andy Park that, to me, captures the essence of the Quiet Place. It’s called In The Secret. It’s on YouTube as well. The first stanza and chorus go like this:
In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness, you are there
In the secret
In the quiet hour, I wait only for you
'Cause I want to know you more
I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more (Andy Park, Vineyard Music, 2004)
Many people in the Bible people met God in the Quiet Place. There’s Jacob, who met the Lord in the quiet of the night at Bethel (Genesis 29:10-17). There’s Moses, who encountered the Lord in a burning bush in the quiet on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:1). David communed with God in the night (Psalm 63:6) and his son, Solomon, also had a nighttime encounter with the Lord (1 Kings 3:5-15). Jesus prepared for His ministry by facing temptation alone in the quiet wilderness (Luke 4:1) and steeled His will in the Garden of Gethsemane in the quiet of the dark, predawn hours (Matthew 26:36).
The Lord tells us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, CSB, italics mine). The Amplified Bible translates it this way, “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God.” It’s in the Quiet Place that we get a clearer vision, a greater understanding of the Lord – who He is and what He wants. Why wouldn’t we take time to get quiet with Him? When the Lord calls us to come away to commune with Him, why are we so reluctant to respond?
We’re often afraid of what we’ll see and hear. Let’s face it, when people encountered God in the Bible, they were usually flattened by fear or overwhelmed by His presence (Judges 13:22; John 18:6). The Lord’s holiness reveals our sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). But not to fret. God has our sin covered by Jesus’ blood, so we have nothing to fear… unless we’re holding onto our sin. Please don’t let it come between you and the Lord. Let it go!
In the Quiet Place, we’re forced to confront ourselves. That’s what happens when we compare our current condition with the Template (God) in whose image we were formed. When we see Him more clearly, we see ourselves more clearly and realize how far short we fall. But that doesn’t put the Lord off. He’s in the transforming business. He’s not content to let us be. He’s changing us look like Jesus (Romans 8:29). We need the Quiet Place to look more closely at the Jesus Blueprint for personal adjustments.
Sometimes we’re just bored and we fill our lives with distractions. Those distractions easily intrude on the Lord’s voice.
Sometimes we’re just unfamiliar with the Lord’s way of communicating with us. Well, we know God speaks to everyone (Psalm 29) and Jesus speaks to His sheep (John 10:27). You can hear Him. You just need to become familiar with His voice. How? Take time to listen.
So, how do we create this Quiet Place practice in our lives?
When the Quiet Place moment happens spontaneously as it did with me this morning, don’t brush it aside. Pause and go with it. You’ll be surprised how the Spirit interacts with you!
Sometimes we need to schedule time in our Quiet Place. #1 TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! Somebody recently shared with me that occupying yourself with your phone in the presence of others is like “smoking at the dinner table.” WOW! How rude and offensive is that? So, how do you think our Holy God feels when your phone is more important to you than Him? Food for thought.
As for distractions in general, the 2nd verse of In The Secret is motivating:
I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
"Cause I want to know you more
“Pushing every hindrance aside.” Distractions wreck the Quiet Place. Push them aside, out of your way!
Does our time in the Quiet Place have to be an hour as many Christians espouse? Nope. Tell me, do we have to schedule an hour with our spouse or a friend? Rarely. Usually, we just talk as often as we want and keep on until we’re done. Whether a short or long time, it doesn’t matter. The point is we are with each other – attentive, focused, interacting, and sharing.
What helps me best is knowing that my time in the Quiet Place with the Lord is not a time of guilt, shaming, blaming, and finger-wagging by our Heavenly Dad. Rather, I find it a peaceful time and a time to review where I’m at, leading to corrections in my words or actions. Sometimes I’m comforted. Sometimes the Lord makes me laugh. Yes, that really does happen when He uses my sense of humor to point something out to me. Often, the Lord leads me to pray for others or directs me to reach out to them.
So here I find myself once again in the Quiet Place. But it’s not so quiet anymore. The sun has risen. The traffic outside has stepped up. All that’s left is to throw open the window shutters and welcome a new day of distractions ahead of me. And amid that symphony of life, the single tune of God’s voice melodically flows. It stands out to me more clearly now, because of my time in the Quiet Place.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts