When I was young, I did my best to fill every corner of my life with noise. It didn’t matter if the sound void was filled with television, music, or people – the goal was always avoidance of quiet.
You see, I didn’t like being alone with my thoughts back then. In those days, I hadn’t dealt with the emotional brokenness my childhood had set in motion. My mind was constantly filled with internal dialog telling me I was a mistake, unwanted, and unloved.
I didn’t like the experience of quietness. Understand though, noise is not just what we hear. It can also be visual or experiential. What I’m talking about is the absence of physical, auditory, or visual racket. It’s the inability to just “be.” No sound. No commotion. No business. No people. Nothing but quite in the presence of God. It’s the secret place that Matthew talks about in verse six of chapter six of his epistle.
Over the years, I’ve learned that many others who’ve experience childhood trauma struggle with the same need to block out those voices. Some accomplish that with things like drugs, alcohol, or promiscuity. Some find more socially acceptable ways to stop the noise. Some isolate, and some seek business. But no matter how the job is accomplished, the commonality is that we try to avoid silence.
When my children were growing up, I didn’t have to work as hard at evading my inner dialog. Most kids are come with a built-in noise option. Their voices, their toys, their movies, and their friends filled the house – and my head – with enough volume to drown out any troubling feelings lurking around my mind.
As any good habit does, the pattern of avoiding what was going on inside me, was honed through repeated behavior, constantly practiced, over many years. I learned to disconnect from my thoughts and feelings because the option of anything else had eluded me up to that point in my life.
Essentially, noise of any kind became a way to escape dealing with the aftermath of a broken life. Work, relationships, hobbies, travel, projects, causes, all were used to keep me from dealing with my brokenness. I used whatever tool I had to do what I needed to avoid dealing with the real problem – my heart.
Sadly, I don’t think my experience is that unusual. I’ve spoken to far too many individuals who are terrified of being alone physically, not to mention, being alone in their heads. They avoid dealing with the very thing that could bring them freedom by filling their head, and their lives, with clutter. And, in that way they don’t have to get to the root of what ails them.
Like Martha in Luke 10:40, we are distracted, and it’s causing us to miss out on something good.
As I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord, though, something has shifted. I cannot pinpoint a day or time when things changed, I just know that the further I moved along my healing journey, the more I began to appreciate the value that came with quiet. I began to see that by silencing the noise around me, I could better connect with the internal voice that reminded me not only who I am, but whose I am. The secret place became the safe place for me.
I am an extrovert by nature, but I get that some of you may be raising your hands and shouting, “Isolation is my happy place!” It’s not about one’s nature or whether we are a people person, or prefer aloneness, though. I’m not talking about proximity to the public at all. I’m referring to a deeper experience that comes when we shut out the commotion around us and lean into our connection to God.
For me, the lesson was well learned. Today precious time with my Maker has become an integral part of my daily self-care routine. When I cease striving and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10), I open myself up to a peace that is beyond human understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Recently, the entire world has begun to experience a seclusion brought on by circumstances we are unable to control It’s raised a chorus of voices that run the gamut of hope to despair. One only need skim social media to understand that anxiety and fear has been raised to an all-time high. We are told to hunker down, and we take it as an afront on our independence. The need to separate socially is uncomfortable and it honestly feels as though the ask it too big for the vast majority of people. After all we were God-created for community (Genesis 2:24).
For most of us, this disruption has changed the way we live. But, can I throw out this thought? What if this is opportunity to press in. Can we consider the idea that social isolation could just be fertile ground for silencing the noise?
I am challenged to adjust to this new normal like everyone else. But I am beginning to see it as opportunity to stretch and grow, challenge and change, learn and transform. In ministry, the people I speak to come from many different walks of life, with diverse life experiences, and with a wide variety of beliefs. But one thing the majority have in common is the want to grow and change. But friends, for beauty there must be pressure. Gold is never purified without a tremendous amount of heat. Though it’s not what we like to hear, much beauty comes from our time in the fire.
So, what if? What if we yielded to the change? What if we allowed the fire to lift the impurities to the top? What if we let the noise stop? Just like Mary in Luke 38:42, what if we chose the better thing?
This is the challenge for us, my friends. Let’s choose to allow the noise to stop, and in the quietness to reap the better thing.