Our world is too noisy, too busy, too crowded. Even when you look for something good to do, you can be so overwhelmed by how many good things need to be done, you can wind up frozen to inactivity by the myriad of choices in front of you. We desperately need quiet. We desperately need time. We desperately need solitude.
Quiet: One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from when I lived in Alaska for a year. I stopped by a machine shop where a friend worked as a steamfitter, running a huge pipe-cutting machine that trimmed 12″ solid steel bars (30.5cm diameter) into pipes for offshore drilling rigs. The machine shop was a huge warehouse building with dozens of threaders, grinders, benders, welders, brazers and cutters whirring and clanking away at the various tasks of making pipes and their fittings.
The noise in the shop seemed deafening to me as we “chatted,” or rather yelled at each other, in order to be heard over the other machines that were all noisily performing their jobs. Suddenly, mid-sentence, my friend held up his hand, and apologized, “Sorry, I have to take care of this.” As I wondered what he needed to take care of, a half dozen other men came rushing to his machine.
Somehow amidst all the noise of the machine shop, he and these other men heard something go wrong on his pipe-cutter, and everyone sprang into action to do their parts to take care of “what they had heard.” Their ears were as attuned to the sound of this machine as clearly as a mother is attuned to her baby’s cry.
Time: Father has given each of us 24 hours every day, no more, no less, no matter how you use it, abuse it, or lose track of it. You and I have the same resource of time that Jesus had and that presidential candidates have. We have the same 24 hours per day that the homeless guy sitting beside his belongings in a grocery cart on the street corner has. The issue is prioritizing what each of us needs to do. And for that we need guidance. A small voice whispering in our ear, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
It is a small voice, even though it comes from a very great source. In Elijah’s day he was instructed, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for Yahweh is about to pass by. Yahweh passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12) And God was in the low whisper, or as the KJV puts it, a “still small voice.”
Isaiah further went on to describe the Messiah speaking to the world,
“He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 42:2-3)
God does not need to yell. He is God and His purposes will stand. His plan will be worked out in the end, though all hell and its demons rage against it. The clamoring noise of the world can protest and scream; they can build bombs and try to destroy what He wants to accomplish, but He will just keep whispering to His people, to anyone who will listen for Him, and He will finish what He began in the Garden of Eden.
We cannot “make time.” Time is what it is, and we can simply use it, abuse it or lose it. We use time by setting some aside and spending it in quiet solitude to listen for a “still small voice.” Ralph Carmichael understood this when he penned the words to There Is A Quiet Place.
Solitude: Loneliness can be devastating. It feels even worse when other people are around, but you are disconnected from them. A feeling of emptiness can suck the life out of a marriage when a husband and wife are on different wavelengths. A comedy club is one of the most miserable places in the world for one who has no one with whom to share the jokes.
But solitude is time chosen to be away from the masses, “far from the madding crowd,” (Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard). Often Jesus would withdraw from the crowds who longed for His leadership (Matthew 14:13, John 6:15), a far cry from today’s politicians or celebtrities who love the limelight. But Jesus knew that, as a man, He needed time to digest His role, His position, and His mission.
You: So before you embark on a week of noise, busy-ness, and crowds, take some time for quiet, peace and solitude. As you listen for His voice in the quiet times, learn to hear Him even when the noise crowds in around you. Underneath all the noise of the tv, radio and iPod, in the flurry of all of this world’s busy-ness, and in the middle of the crowds of Lexington or LA, listen for His voice. He is here, and He is not silent. What are you listening for?