Drowning out the silence

Can you imagine what it was like to live through the invention and subsequent mass production of the car? Suddenly the world became a much smaller place. People could travel much faster than they ever could before.

What about the invention and subsequent development of the air transport network? In a matter of years people could travel to all parts of the world in just a day or two.

Those two things revolutionised the world and humanity made huge leaps forward.

Fast forward to 2016. Cars and planes are destroying the planet. Airports are trying to expand because, at some travel hubs terminals can't cope with demand. The skies are rarely quiet over larger cities and the roads are so clogged with traffic at certain times that we had to invent new language to describe it; tailbacks, road rage. Air flight and car travel set us free but we are edging towards a moment where, without changes to fuel and traffic density the benefits will be outweighed by the negatives. 

Most of us can vividly remember the internet revolution. At the start of the 90's, communication was slow. By the turn of the century everywhere was accessible. I had a pen pal as a kid, to my shame i can't even remember their name, but I remember that getting a letter from the heart of Europe was so exciting. It was like peering into another world. Reading through the grammatical errors and strange sentence structures felt exotic. Nowadays, in a matter of seconds I can be speaking to someone on the other side of the globe via any number of communication apps. 

Email changed the world of work. We could communicate with large groups so quickly. Suddenly tasks that took weeks could take hours. The world took a leap forward in efficiency. Add smartphones and social media and we are in a whole new Star Trek-esque world of communication. The whole world lay in the palm of our hands. 

In those days I would get around 10 emails a week. Nowadays I get hundreds per week, maybe more, the vast majority are about The Fat Face sale or Martin 'MoneySavingExpert' Lewis' tips for the week. Most of them remain unread, I get so many work and personal communication emails that the advertising emails couldn't possibly be read. Add on Tweets, Facebook messages, likes, shares, blogs, texts and selfies and I don't know how we keep up. Held at arms length it all looks a little stressful. 

Whilst studying theology, I read a book called The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. Since then I have always felt that for those of us who build our lives around a relationship with God that silent reflection should be a key aspect of our spiritual life. Or as the Psalmist puts it in Psalm 62,

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him."

Somewhere in the silence our souls find hope.

The truth is, more than ever, I am finding it hard to create silent space. My mind and eyes are bombarded by information, tweets, blogs, selfies and cat videos and my honest belief is that it has punched a hole in my hope. 

My eyes are full of chaos, climate chaos, refugee chaos, Junior Doctor contract chaos, earthquake chaos, zika chaos, Stephen Fry chaos, athlete doping chaos, Syria chaos, Saudi chaos, misogyny chaos, equality or lack or it chaos, real world chaos. I cannot get away from it. I carry it in my pocket, I check it in the morning and it tucks me in at night. 

The noise of the world is drowning out the silence from which I've always tuned into my hope. The Light of the world is being extinguished by the dull glow of a phone screen. The still small voice muffled by Spotify and Apple Music. Silence has never been more golden, and that gold has never been harder to find. 

As we seek what God has for us as individuals and a community let's make space for silence. Let's make space to sit with ourselves and with our Father. Let's clear the atmosphere of noise and light and listen to Him again; look for Him again. I believe that in these moments we will find the goodness of the Father who loves us. We will feel hope rising in us again. 

So will you join me in starting with 20 minutes? Phone in a drawer. TV off. Laptop shut. 20 minutes today. 20 minutes tomorrow. 20 minutes the next day. Peace and silence. Quiet and rest. Waiting and listening. 20 minutes could make all the difference. Let hope rise up again.