I am many things. I am a teacher. I am a friend. I am a fan of Diet Coke with Lime. I am a lover of monkeys and words and correct grammar. I am a hater of egos and running and meatloaf. Ew, meatloaf!! I am a singer, a giggler, a guitar player- “functional, at best.” However, some of these things are changeable, assuming I out grow them… or my tastes evolve… or my life takes me down a different path, but there is one thing that I think will never change. I am a talker. I always have been. Growing up, my parents were never shocked to hear “Tempa is quite friendly, isn’t she?” as a lead-in to the bad behavior conversation at parent-teacher conferences. Most people were kind and called me things like a “social butterfly” or commented on how I “make friends easily”, but really… I talked too much. I still do!! I process emotion verbally… actually, I process everything verbally. I just talk a lot.
I think that’s probably why I like words. It’s hard not to love something you use so frequently, right? As an adult, I find myself talking all the time. All. The. Time. In teaching, in texting, in chatting with friends. Unfortunately, my Chatty-Kathy nature doesn’t end with my job or my time with those with whom I share my life. I find myself filling even my prayer life with my own words. A lot of words, although usually inside my own head, scrambled in some adjective-heavy Word Burrito. I sit down to pray, but it ends with me telling God all the ideas I have that might “fix” all my issues or making a to-do list of the things I need to accomplish in order to overcome an obstacle. I sit down to listen, but all I’m doing is filling the empty space reserved for HIS words with my own. It’s the truth… my “Quiet Time” is rarely quiet.
If I’m being 100% honest with you, quiet is unnatural to me. I have slept with the radio on for as long as I can remember. I often turn on my Ipod when I study for things or read. I turn on the TV when I walk into a room. Not because I want to watch the newest episode of “Say Yes to the Dress”, but because I need some sort of audio wallpaper. I need sound, need to hear SOMETHING. I think it’s because the silence scares me. Maybe there’s something in silence that makes me feel alone… and I don’t like that. Not one bit.
But yet I know the Lord asks us to “Be Still” (Psalm 46:10) and I know that Scripture is riddled with commands to “wait” and “be silent”. (Ex 14:14, Ps 37:7, Ps 62:5, Lam 3:26…etc)So silence in itself can not be a bad thing. In fact, I have no doubt that the discipline of silence is probably something that we all should utilize from time to time. Even us “talkers”. As with anything, practice makes perfect, right? So, this year, during the Lenten season, I wanted to do just that… practice the discipline of Silence. I wanted to learn what it feels like to just be quiet. Be Still.
So, I sat down at my kitchen table a few weeks ago and prepared my heart (and my mind) for… well, nothing. Homemade iced caramel macchiato in hand, I thanked the Lord for the desire to seek stillness and I asked Him to speak. I asked for the strength to just sit and listen. I asked for the courage to be still.
Friends, I wish I could tell you that this was easy. I wish I could say that I relished in God’s voice and I was given a peace and comfort that I had not yet experienced… but that would be a lie. It was hard. I could barely keep my mind from reviewing my plans for the day or replaying a conversation I had with a new friend the night before. It was hard to not check my phone to see if I had missed a text message and hard not to begin over-thinking my own faults and short-comings. Stillness was hard and, honestly, I probably wasted the first few minutes of the first few days catching myself doing exactly what I set out NOT to do. But, eventually, over the course of the last 33 days, my mind stilled and I was able to focus on the One who continues to call me to Himself.
I was still.
I was silent.
And I was refreshed.
“…a time to be silent and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3:7b
Tempa Haines is Director of Youth Ministries at Trinity Bible Church in Cedar Falls Iowa www.cedarfallstrinity.org She is in the process of writing a book with the hopes of being finished by Fall 2015.