The Act of Quiet (May-Jun 2008)

By Matt Dabbs

by Dr. D.V. Adams
May – June, 2008

I left the house around nine in the morning on the first day of my Christmas vacation while my three brothers and two sisters were either sleeping or watching television. I was determined to create some excitement by trekking out into the 200 acres my parents owned in northwest Michigan to go sledding. I was ten.

I followed a well-trodden trail and weaved through a grove of Pine trees before I came upon my favorite hill. It was the top of a ridge that opened into a vast area of sand, which had been covered in a thick blanket of snow; a perfect place to fly down the side of steep hill on my red and brown steel runner sled.

The wind whistled as it grabbed the top layer of snow and violently threw it into the air causing it to fly into powdery dust and disappear. Again and again it whirled and whistled, biting into my cheeks. I pulled my scarf higher onto my nose and pulled my sled another foot up the steep incline to the top of the sledding hill.

After sledding for about half an hour I decided that I would have one final run down the hill. I stepped back, threw the sled down and jumped on, only to hit a bump just seconds later. I tumbled off my sled and slid half way down the hill. When I finally came to a stop, I rolled over and smacked my hand into the frozen snow, angry at myself for falling off. Then I got up, gathered my sled and started the cold long walk back home.

I trudged through the snow, fighting the bitter wind by leaning forward with my head down. The wind howled around me and the snow crunched and gave way beneath my boots as I labored to make my way home. Just as I reached the trail that would lead me to the house, the wind abruptly stopped blowing. I stopped, stood up straight, turned, looking behind me. I listened, but heard nothing.

All I could hear was my heavy breathing. I tried to control it in order to catch a sound of something. Nothing. Silence. Being raised in a large family it was odd to be surrounded by silence. I was too young to completely process this wonderful moment and I didn’t know at the time what a terrific impact this would have on me. All I remember thinking was, ‘it’s nice to be in the quiet’.

We live in an energized culture that moves at the blink of think. Adrenaline rush is the drug of choice. The busier we become the happier we think we are. Even without conditioning our lives to live at a rested pace, we will eventually be stopped. It may happen in the form of a failed relationship, a death, legal action, or some other collision course. We are not created to live on adrenaline and feelings alone.

To come to a place of quiet in our hearts means to physically be at rest. Psalms 46:10 (NIV) gently reminds us that we are to, “Be still, and know…” that He is God. The Hebrew word for still is Raphah (raw-faw) which means: “to be quiet, to relax, withdraw, to let drop, abandon.” This verse has two separate statements that have one meaning: “Be still… and… know…” The Hebrew word for know is Yada (yaw-dah), which translates: “to know, to perceive, to find out and discern, to know by experience.” How can we know God, really experience Him, if we aren’t still or quiet? 1 Thessalonians 4:11(KJV) says, “And that ye study to be quiet…” meaning that we can only know God by experiencing Him and we can only experience Him when we are in a quiet, intimate place with Him.

But when do we have time to listen to God? We race from work to home to our TV or we are ‘Church-atized’ which is to say that we spend much of our time attending a multitude of church functions, thinking that we are learning more “about” God instead of getting to “know” God.

Tom Brown, Jr. is recognized as the most renowned Tracker, Wilderness, and Survival expert in North America. His skills have assisted Police in solving homicide cases as well as finding 40 missing persons. Tom didn’t become a gifted Tracker overnight however. He has studied Nature and its nuances for many years. In his book The Tracker, he takes us through his childhood years, growing up with his best friend Rich, and their tutelage under an old Apache Indian called Stalking Wolf. Tom and Rich spent every free moment learning how to survive and become a part of nature. The lessons learned reach deeper then those of just tracking.

Much of what Stalking Wolf taught the boys was to be still and observe. One day Stalking Wolf asked the boys to feed the birds. A general request that the boys knew was not as simple as it sounded since Stalking Wolf had no pet birds. They were aware that he had a deeper lesson in store for them then simply feeding the birds of the air. After pondering it for a day, they asked Stalking Wolf how they should feed the birds. Stalking Wolf replied, “How would you feed me?” Tom answered, “I would hand you the food.” Stalking Wolf smiled and turned away.

They knew exactly what he meant and so the next morning they woke up at 4:00 a.m. and headed to the woods. They found a clearing and laid on their backs with arms outstretched, birdseed in hand. At first it was difficult, their muscles fatigued and they became bored. But as they persevered they discovered that the more they practiced the better and easier it became for them to be still. Soon birds were confidently swooping down and pecking the birdseed from their hands. Tom and Rich practiced being still and became masters at it. The art of birds eating from your hand is the act of being still (and quiet).

The problem is that we don’t know how to quiet ourselves. The art of listening and waiting have become lost in the busyness of our culture. In his timely book, CrazyBusy, Dr. Edward Hallowell states that, “…lingering is a lost art. Such is our hurry and our need for constant stimulation that a modern romantic conversation might go like this:

“I love you.”

“Oh good, now what’s your next point?”

…if we’re not careful, we’ll get so busy that we will miss taking the time to think and feel.”

Thus today’s Christians don’t practice the Act of Quiet, which involves a significant act of physical and mental discipline. The late Henri Nouwen, who wrote extensively on solitude comments, “We have become alienated from Silence…when we are invited to move from our noisy world into this sound filled silence we become frightened…our ears begin to ache because the familiar noise is missing.” The familiar noise we hear should be that of God speaking to us, not the chatter of voices calling to us from our TV.

A simple act of denying TV time in exchange for prayer is an act of discipline. It is simply fasting, which is denying ourselves of worldly pleasures for the benefit of spiritual gain. How do we expect to live forever with God and rest in the luxury of his amazing love and presence without getting to know him now?

Just as Jesus begins his ministry, we hear God speak for the first time since Christ’s birth. Throughout the Gospels there is no mention of God’s voice after his birth to his baptism. But what happened just prior to his baptism? We find him fasting, alone with God, the scriptures say for Forty days. Forty days alone with God. I doubt that Jesus just decided to go on a 40-day fast without ever fasting before. After spending this alone time with God, he seeks out his cousin John to be baptized. And here God speaks to man saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5 NIV, emphasis added). Prayer isn’t a one-sided conversation. Prayer is what allows a relational experience with God.

The Bible is our standard, our handbook for living a victorious Christian life, but it not to be a substitute for listening to God’s voice. The word of God is God’s word. We find in Roman’s 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NKJV, emphasis added). The word used here for ‘word’ is the Greek noun rhema (hray’-mah) which means, that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, any sound produced by the voice and having definite meaning. The Bible is called God’s ‘word’ and without a doubt it is. However, Paul conveys the meaning of listening to God’s present voice. This Greek word rhema, is also found in the following verses (emphasis added):

    • Matthew 4:4, “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (NKJV) – The New Century Version translates this verse, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written in the Scriptures, ‘A person does not live by eating only bread, but by everything God says.'”
  • Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” (NIV)

 

  • 1 Peter 1:25, “…but the word of the Lord stands forever…”(NIV)

 

Listening means we cease talking. Kahlil Gibran expresses his thoughts on quiet, “You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts…And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime…There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.”

Sounds are distractions. Distractions seem to feed on many Christians’ opportunities for quiet. Instead of dwelling in solitude, they would rather dwell in noise. If Gibran were alive today he might revise his thoughts and say, ‘There are those among you who seek the internet, music, chatter, and other noise, for fear of being alone.’

We live in a noise filled world there is no escaping this reality. How we cope with noise and distractions is the choice we must make. Susanna Wesley, the mother of Charles and John Wesley, had a unique way of finding time alone with God in the business of life. Living in a home with 10 children she would sit down at the dinner table and pull her apron up over her head. She would use this time to pray and her children knew this was her alone time and not to disturb her.

Finding the time and place to be with God may be the hardest thing for you to do. Not because the time and place are unavailable, but because the passion to be with God is not as strong as it once was. To find quiet takes energy. To listen to God takes energy.

The lack of listening causes laziness in our spirit, which in turn quenches our ability and desire to be with and to hear God. Even in the distractions of a busy monastery kitchen, French Monk Nicholas Herman, aka Brother Lawrence, found solitude in his heart. He says, “For me the time of action does not differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are together calling for as many different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as when upon my knees…”

What would happen if you found the tranquility of God in everything you did? Revival would explode in your world. You can find it. You can have it. Just stop and listen. New Wineskins

Dr. D.V. AdamsDr. David Adams has been called a ‘Theologian with an attitude,’ an attitude to see lives changed. His commitment to Spiritual Renewal in the lives of hurting people is evidenced by his writing, speaking, and counseling ministry. Even though he has a PhD in Theology, he doesn’t fit the Theological stereotypical mold. His approach to Spiritual Renewal is humorous, down-to-earth, and always straight to the heart. He is a freelance writer and is currently working on a publishing deal with his first book, “The Act of Lifestyle Worship.”

He and his wife Theresa created a Renewal Seminar Series through their work with TA-DA Ministry, which they created over five years ago.
the Renewal Seminar Series includes a Marriage Enrichment Seminar, Women’s Retreat Series, and many more. For more information contact Dr. Adams at: [drdvadams@gmail.com].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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