A few weeks ago, the audio system in our old minivan died a sudden and unexpected death. No matter how many fuses we replaced, we were unable to resurrect the speakers, the CD player, or the AM/FM stations. As a huge fan of road-trip karaoke and stoplight dance parties, I was in mourning.
Trips anywhere seemed to take twice as long without the company of background music or podcasts to pass the time. The silence was new. I felt antsy. My thoughts were bouncing around and completely scattered.
We’re unaccustomed to silence. We attempt to fill the stillness with distractions. We scroll through social media during TV commercial breaks. We often can’t fall asleep without the television on. Many of us don’t even go to the bathroom without a phone or tablet with us.
The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 3 to fix our thoughts on Jesus. I would be willing to bet we all long to hear the voice of God in our lives. I’ve prayed countless prayers asking God to show me what to do or say, where to go or how long to stay. And yet I’m not quiet long enough to listen for his answer. I’m not still.
Last month I participated in a twenty-four-hour fast with other members of our church. We were coming together to offer focused prayer for a particular concern. While most people followed tradition and abstained from eating for the duration of the fast, I chose to avoid all screens. When I felt the urge to reach for my phone or the remote control, I prayed instead.
It was incredibly eye-opening to see how frequently those urges came. I probably prayed more during those twenty-four hours than in the entire previous week. I was shocked by how those little moments here and there added up.
I’d like to say that when the fast was over, I was committed to living a distraction-free life and that I’m well on my way to extended daily quiet times. That’s not the case. But I did learn a valuable lesson about simply being more aware of how I’m filling my time.
I know some of these may sound a bit wacky, but I’ve made a few changes.
The van’s radio is still broken, but instead of using my phone to stream music or a podcast during a trip, I break it up into hourly sections, alternating between music and quiet. If I’m just driving across town, I might have quiet on the way there and then listen to music on the way home.
When the kids are finally asleep, I tend to crash onto the couch to catch up on my favorite TV show. Instead of reaching for Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram during the commercials, I spend some time in prayer for a specific person.
When I go for a walk, it’s usually after dark and the neighborhood is quiet and still. All I can hear are my footsteps and my breath coming faster than I’d like to admit. Instead of plugging in my earphones, I take the opportunity to quiet my soul and listen for whatever God might bring to mind.
It feels as if the world around us is growing increasingly noisy. These are just a few ways I’ve been able to reclaim extra moments of quiet throughout the day. I’d love for you to share what may have worked for you. Comment below and we can encourage one another with new ideas.
Photograph © Freestocks.org, used with permission