On the first morning after a carefree holiday break, when getting dressed out of pajamas is no longer an option, I realize my resistance about returning to life as a responsible adult isn’t about lack of motivation or dread about work. The heaviness about resuming predictable schedules comes from a lack of rhythm.
Stumbling down narrow, winding steps toward the kitchen, wood creaks under bare feet, cracking open the stillness hovering over all three floors of the house. Reaching the bottom floor, light spills from a lamp on the desk in the kitchen, preset to turn on before the sun rises.
Anchoring fingers around the black knob on the lid of the tea kettle, I pry it loose and water glugs from a glass bottle, filling the empty metal cavern. The tinny crescendo of heat on metal transforms what is cold into a warm, bubbly welcome.
A red teapot warms under a cozy steeping with Red Rose tea bags, a Christmas gift from my Canadian mother-in-law.
Dipping a knife into a jar of Hellman’s, I spread a glob of mayo on two pieces of whole wheat toast, layer bacon, slices of cheddar and then cut the sandwich in two pieces. Breakfast for my son stays inside the microwave until I hear the stairs creak again with his footsteps descending; a cue he is showered, wearing his school uniform and ready to fill an empty stomach.
From a cozy chair in the corner of the dining room with a blanket over my lap, I stare out the window as time ticks, birds trill, and ivy flutters on the wall with a gust of wind.
I haven’t practiced listening to the silence since decorating the Christmas tree and filling our guest rooms.
While resolutions for a New Year with a clean slate of endless possibilities sound alluring, a rhythm of silence is the rudder keeping thoughts and intentions on course.
In a busy world that prescribes more – more exercise, more diets, more involvement in community, more engagement on social media, more ways to make money, more education, and more resources for ramping up productivity – it might surprise you to know that a rhythm of daily silence and weekly Sabbath is making a (quiet) comeback.
From This is Your Brain on Silence, Daniel Gross writes, “In recent years researchers have highlighted the peculiar power of silence to calm our bodies, turn up the volume on our inner thoughts, and attune our connection to the world. Their findings begin where we might expect: with noise. The word “noise” comes from a Latin root meaning either queasiness or pain.”
Read the headlines, talk to your neighbors, mentor a college student, and discover a similar truth: we experience pain, not as an exception but rather, as a normal part of our humanity. And the way to conquer pain is in finding Jesus’ still, small voice above the noise.
Recent neuroscience research reveals that “freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.”
Maybe you’ve just experienced a joyful holiday season punctuated with days of rest and the thought of revisiting mundane practicality makes you feel tired, heavy, and lifeless. Perhaps you feel a bit guilty for feeling restless?
“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.” (Romans 18:31-39, MSG)Replace resolutions with rhythms of rest this year and find peace, wholeness, and direction in God’s love for you. Jesus is our example.
As Jesus’ popularity and ministry grew so did His responsibilities. And the way He responded to the noise of life was to seek silence — in the wilderness (Luke 5:15-16), on a mountain (Luke 6:12), and secluded places (Luke 4:42) – for prayer and listening.
Florence Nightingale was on to something when she wrote, “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on the sick or well.”
When perspective becomes slanted and days are disoriented; when emotions are out of sorts and your heart feels heavy, rhythms reorient toward what matters most amidst the noise of life.
Maybe you don’t have the luxury of going somewhere quiet for long periods of reflection but you can find a spot to sit and stare out the window while your kids are eating breakfast. In the same way you start your day with a predictable routine, incorporate three minutes a day to listen to your heart and hear what God is saying.
Replace resolutions with rhythms of rest and what you discover may be the biggest surprise of the New Year.
Some questions for you:
How can you begin to incorporate small windows of time for Sabbath? What are the obstacles keeping you from incorporating rest as a lifestyle? What are some of the ways you’ve experienced greater connection with God and your surroundings through the practice of silence?