The words come crashing in like chattering kids. They're only in my head but they are deafening. I cannot stem the tide. A billion babblings jostle for position. One sinks, one bubbles up. He says, "Be silent," and I long for quiet to listen for his voice, to know that he is God. I'm desperate to hear him through the clatter, within static and underneath the noise, Somewhere at a center point is silence, deep inside my cluttered cave. And he is there.
Yes, the words came crashing in, when all I wanted was silence. I wrote this poem when I was still in in ministry in Côte d’Ivoire. The workweek was full of Bible translation studies, linguistic challenges and exegetical discussions as well as hours of interaction with friends, especially nationals. We often had visitors until 8 p.m. or later each evening, or meetings we needed to attend. Even when sleeping, my dreams would swirl around language enigmas or discoveries.
I desperately needed to find a way to let go of those preoccupations and just be quiet, waiting. Several books on spiritual growth had urged the practice of solitude and silence as a way to pursue giving better attention to the Lord’s voice. One example in the book Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God Who Speaks, by Brad Jersak, had really convicted me of my lack of attention in that area: how would you feel if someone you love were to call you regularly but just blab the whole time, never letting you ask a question or share anything? Yet that is what prayer usually is like! It had been hard enough just to carve out daily Bible reading and prayer. How could I find space for silence, away from all the demands of ministry and community, a place to actually listen?
I know this is an issue for many of you, too. It is tough to develop enough patience to just sit quietly without “accomplishing” anything on a to-do list, or to leave the phone on silent. And there are the anxieties raised by the daily news, or by family issues. I’ve shared before that while in translation ministry, eventually I had to carve out a three-hour space, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., on Saturday mornings when I would sit alone in my courtyard (under the golden rain trees, or in the big gazebo if it was raining). I told coworkers not to interrupt me unless it was really urgent. And for me, it took at least an hour, often more, for my inner being to be released from its concerns and preoccupations. After much practice, it was then that I began to sense certain impressions that I knew were from the Lord. I had a special journal at hand and would write what I was hearing. For me, it often came out in free-verse poetry, wording that I had not anticipated. Sometimes it was a lesson that nature was modeling for me, or an encouragement to contact someone, change direction, or study a certain part of Scripture etc. The peace that would come with that message confirmed it was from Abba. I was so grateful!
As I said, it did take practice. Now my surroundings have changed and I have had to discover new ways to continue listening. Usually it is in our rehabbed attic, my Skyhouse nook. When the weather is not so cold as now, I have sometimes driven the car to a sheltered spot in a park – I love going to Belle Isle, where I can sit by the river. What works for you? How do you find space to just be quiet with the Lord, open and ready to listen? I would love to hear from you. We are unique individuals with different environments and communities. But our loving Father is always present. He loves to communicate with us. He will find the best way for each one of his children. We just need to be silent and listen.
You can find my book of poetry on the discipline of listening, When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey, at the following marketplaces:
Direct from the publisher, WestBow Press: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers
Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/when-whispers-learning-listen-the-journey/linnea-boese/9781664224100