My house is extravagantly quiet on this Saturday afternoon. I’ve spent most of my day sinking into a novel, something I haven’t done in a while. (Translation: two weeks. That’s a long time for me without books!) It feels like pure luxury to simply sit, without guilt or worry, without stress or frustration. I can unplug and detach and know perfectly well that the world will go on without me. And I need not fear missing a thing.
Rather, I can actually rejoice in what I am missing. I’m missing the noise. And loving the beauty of its absence.
We live in a noisy world.
We live in a world of amateur professionalism. YouTube, TEDtalks, online university courses and transcripts, and a countless number of other resources make it easy for any determined person to become an expert on just about anything. The lines between hobbyists and professionals continues to blur. Anyone with access to Pinterest may now think she’s Martha Stewart. And, within reason, she can probably pull it off, fooling even those closest to her.
On top of these immeasurable resources at our fingertips, we all have bullhorns to broadcast our newfound knowledge and accomplishments. Blogs are filled with “how-to’s” from people who have only done it once. Conferences (both in person and online) eagerly teach us how to increase our platform, market our skills, and reach the most people possible with our message. Children become internet sensations. Everyone wants more than their own fifteen minutes of fame … often for doing nothing at all.
Once upon a time people were famous because they were special. Now people are deemed special just for being famous.
Oh, and let us never forget the “dialogs” that see no end. Facebook offers an all-too-ready platform for armchair politicians, theologians, and know-it-alls from every aspect of life. Someone within your sphere can cure all your life’s woes with the right book, the proper diet, exercise routine, herbal supplement, or an essential oil. Everyone knows everything except for, maybe, how to be quiet.
It’s okay not to live out loud.
“You need not attend every argument to which you’ve been invited.”
I don’t know who said this first, but I love it. I don’t always remember it, but I try. And not just because I want to save myself the stress. It’s also because I believe that’s what God wants us to do.
He hasn’t called us to be megaphones. We aren’t here to make much of ourselves or our ideas or our conclusions. Nope. We’re here to make much of Him. When we draw too much attention to ourselves, we defeat our purpose. When we argue to be heard, we forget to care for those who need to hear and to listen to those who need to be heard.
Here’s what Scripture says:
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
‘ For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,
who gave Himself—a ransom for all,
a testimony at the proper time.'”
— 1 Timothy 2:1–6 (HCSB)
“About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.”
— 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12 (HCSB)
Now, don’t for a moment think that I believe we should all sit back and always keep our mouths shut. You all should know me better than that.
When we need to speak, SPEAK. Speak truth with courage and strength.
But if we’re just adding to the noise, if we’re elevating ourselves rather than our God, we need to just sit down. We need to step back.
I think a lot of times we make noise to feel significant. We want people to notice us so that we feel worth noticing. We want to feel important. Here’s the deal, folks:
You are SIGNIFICANT, because God made you and He loves you.
You are NOTICED, because God sees you and He cares for you.
You are IMPORTANT, because He has good works prepared for you to do.
None of this changes when we stay quiet. None of this changes when we choose simplicity and humility over visibility.
It’s okay not to listen.
Our 11-year-old is learning the art of texting. Rather, she’s learning the art and science of friendship with the modern complication of texting. The other night she curled up in her “clubhouse,” the cozy space under her loft bed, fully distraught. Some spat between friends had turned overly dramatic and emotionally heated. I climbed into the clubhouse and offered solidarity and cuddles as she checked her phone every 10 seconds for an update. Each new message brought more anxiety. Tears began to flow. I could see her (and hear her) feeling isolated and misunderstood.
“You know, you don’t have to respond. You don’t even have to read the messages.”
She looked at me with wide eyes. The thought had never occurred to her. She grabbed her phone, left the conversation, and activated the do not disturb feature.
The next morning I heard her bounce down the steps to the kitchen. The light had returned to her eyes. With a huge smile, she announced: “Mom! I didn’t get any messages all night!”
“Does that make you feel good?”
“I feel great!”
Here’s the thing: sometimes what seems so urgent and critical in the moment really isn’t. What seems to demand a response doesn’t always need one. Drama loves to be fed, but drama also loves to feed on us.
Oh, and it’s so easy to feed the drama. We want to be right. We want to be heard, but too often the battle isn’t worth it.
There is great freedom in walking away from fruitless conversation. There is liberty in avoiding drama. There is healing to be found in the quiet.
Learning to live quietly.
I want my children to see me living simply, quietly, peacefully. I want them to know that not every thought needs to be broadcast on social media, that private moments have great value.
We need not bow to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). When we chase after the wind, we lose the peace our souls desperately crave.
It’s okay not to subscribe to or participate in the noise. There are many, many wiser ways to spend our time and resources.