growing up in the country, if I was stressed I’d just go outside. I’d climb a tree, hike a mountain, or walk a mile in the brook that ran through my parents’ property. I know it sounds like a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. (it kind of was.)
there was rich, full, beautiful silence always at my disposal. silence through which God often spoke.
in Cambridge there is less silence.
at night I hear students coming in and out of the Harvard dorms behind my apartment, I hear sirens, I hear the loud, angry, Massachusetts-trademark honking of car horns.
I don’t know if my work would be considered “high stress” by most well-adjusted adults, but I’m still learning how to do this full-time-job thing, plus the writing (another 20ish hours a week). so, when I get overwhelmed, my go-to solution is to block it all out. I plug in my earbuds and play riotous music at full volume, to drown out the stress. typically it’s Fall Out Boy or The Clash. it’s usually at least a little angry.
honestly, it really helps.
it lets me check out emotionally, focus on the tasks in front of me, and not spiral mentally. angry music is a great emotional equalizer.
but over the last couple of weeks, in the middle of some serious craziness, I’ve had this thought when I’m about to put in the earbuds that maybe I shouldn’t. no booming voice from Heaven saying it, no visions and dreams telling me that loud, less-than-happy music is wrong.
just a feeling, just a thought that I shouldn’t always disconnect when I’m stressed.
the thing is, the last month or so has been no joke. it’s gotten to the point that when I wake up, my neck and shoulders have been so tight that standing up often brings me to tears. I’ve been having nightmares again, and in the mornings, I see stars if I turn to look at something. there’s been a lot going on, with work, writing, and people around me, not to mention our nation.
yesterday morning I was really close to cracking (okay, I did cry once…twice. just twice I think- thanks for the love, Becca, Sarah, & Flo), so I was scanning my playlists for the right one from my “mood” folder on spotify, and I just had this thought: “choose worship.”
I typically do not listen to worship music unless I’m ready to sit and engage and worship, so it was an abnormal thought.
but you know when you feel something in that deep place where you get convicted of sin and even though it seems trivial, you know you should listen? that’s where I felt it. so Rich Mullins it was. I didn’t really think much more of it; maybe God was comforting me in the moment, I’ll take it, etc.
but last night, on my short walk home from a coffee shop where I write most evenings, I reached into my pocket for my earbuds and felt, in the same deep place, the words “choose silence, sometimes.” this time it was clear as a bell.
so I walked home with my ears open instead, and I remembered that God did not speak to Elijah in the whirlwind. and he did not speak to him in the earthquake. and he did not speak to him in the fire. he waited and he spoke to him in a still, small voice that came afterwards, in the silence.
and with all of the craziness that I feel like I’m swimming in – between deadlines on creative projects, stress with work, and relational pain around me that sometimes even makes it hard to feel allowed to talk about my own struggles because of the weight of others’, it feels very much like I’m in the whirlwind, or in the fire, or in the earthquake.
so why am I surprised that God would tell me to quiet my spirit? to choose worship, and to choose silence?
I wish I could say that my walk down Mass Ave was quiet like NH. but I think God was asking me to quiet myself. to breathe in, and breathe out, and sit – metaphorically – with him. to not worry about tomorrow, which has enough worry for itself. to press on in my pursuit of shalom. and that started with choosing silence.
I feel like I’m at the beginning of relearning a lesson I used to know so well. that quiet in my spirit is possible even when quiet in my surroundings is not. and that sometimes God wants us to choose that silence.
I’m sharing this, as when I share anything that’s happening in my head and heart, because I’m learning it, and not because I think these are cure-all answers. right now I’m still here, in the whirlwind, in the earthquake, in the fire. but now at least I’m listening.
*ps yes I took a picture of my (chai) latte and I was very embarrassed but it’s soooo pretty.