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Talking gas pumps and sacred silence

I had an experience with a talking gas pump not too long ago. Okay, the pump itself didn’t actually say anything --- you communicated with it through a keypad. The speaking came from a box next to the pump that informed you about all of the wonderful items they sold inside the store. I found the whole experience to be fairly obnoxious. The last thing I need is more noise blaring at me. With that in mind, I do need to credit the good people who put a sound off button on it. Of course, touching this button only deactivated the sound for a brief time (I had to touch it four times during my visit --- well, five if you count me turning off the sound on the opposite side).

What is it about our culture and noise? If you haven’t noticed, it’s everywhere --- in elevators, stores, and our phones. It’s getting difficult to pull up news stories on the web that don’t have video/audio that automatically engage. It’s rare to see anyone running, walking, or working out without earbuds.

It’s almost as if we’re scared of silence.

If that struck a nerve, it was meant to. I’m convinced that the constant barrage of noise numbs us and dumbs us. It keeps us from thinking clearly and living well. I understand there is such a thing as "comfort" noise, when we surround ourselves with sound because we’re alone or it helps keep us alert while we’re driving on a long trip. I’m not speaking to these situations. I’m addressing the white noise that is in our lives from the time we open our eyes in the morning until we fall asleep at night. I’m speaking of sounds that serve no purpose other than to dull our brains and stifle our spirits.

Scripture has quite a bit to say about the "still water" moments of reflective silence:
  • Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart  to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2),
  • Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10),
  • It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:26),
  • The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Habakkuk 2:20).
And we shouldn’t forget that God spoke to Elijah not through the roaring wind, an earthquake, or fire but through a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). All of this suggests that we should see silence as a sacred opportunity to draw near to God.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7). Let’s make sure we know what time it is.
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