I don’t suppose there has ever been a noisier culture than the one in which you and I currently find ourselves. There used to be a time that when we were away from home, a ringing phone did not have the capability of interrupting our lives. Today, we and our “smart” phones are literally joined at the hip, and they beep incessantly, disturbing our peace and presumptuously interjecting their presence into what would otherwise be silence or uninterrupted face-to-face encounters. We go out for a quiet dinner, and televisions blare from what used to be white space, non-invasive restaurant corners. Music provides constant background noise nearly everywhere we go. Car radios are continually pumping out the sounds of talk shows, audio books, and the latest tunes. Social media pages scream news and gossip from the personal lives of those we have never even met, inviting us to click our way down endless rabbit trails. It is near impossible to escape noise and find a sense of stillness, but while we can’t force the rest of the world around us to be quiet and still, we have absolute control over the quantity and quality of noise that we invite in and give access to our personal space.
Obviously, noise is not all bad, and we can find great comfort and joy from the things we listen to and hear. But sometimes we become so inundated with the constant bombardment of sounds that we can no longer hear our selves think. We can no longer hear that still, small voice deep inside guiding us forward, and the noise-induced distraction derails us from our intended path. Sometimes we unconsciously, albeit intentionally, use noise as a means of keeping us so engaged that we are rendered incapable of dealing with the issues of our own hearts. If we keep the atmosphere loud and diverting around us or if we absorb ourselves with what is going on in the lives of others, we won’t have to face the man in the mirror or think about things that need to be confronted and thought about. Unresolved issues can fester and become bigger and harder to deal with later, and regardless how difficult it is to face them head on, it is never healthy or a good idea to ignore their existence.
Whatever our reasons for allowing noise, the voice of stillness calls to each one of us. It beckons us to come aside, to break free from the mold of what the world around us expects and demands, and to pursue the peace that comes from the simplicity of silence. There comes a point where stillness calls louder than every source of noise, and we find ourselves willing to do or give up whatever the serenity of stillness requires.
It is possible to drown out the noise and to surrender to the call of stillness. It is simple as making the right choices. What a relief it is to know that we don’t have to get caught up in the clamor and stress—even at Christmas! Here are a few voices to drown out, not only on regular days, but even during the chaos of the holiday season.
1. Consumerism. We don’t have to get caught up in shopping frenzy just because the voice of consumerism announces that our favorite store is having a sale. We are all fed a steady diet of sales ads, TV commercials, online shopping banners, and well-meaning family members and friends informing us of irresistible bargains. It is wise to pause, take a deep breath, and count the cost before rushing to the store. If not paying cash, is it worth the cost of credit to buy? Will the stress of January’s bills outweigh the thrill of buying in December? Which option brings the most peace? Shopping in Christmas-crowded stores can create enormous stress and bring the total opposite of stillness. Sometimes, it is best to just stay home.
2. Guilt. We don’t have to listen to the voice of guilt shaming us into buying for every person we know or even everyone who has bestowed a gift. While it is absolutely more blessed to give than to receive, our giving should be within our means. It defies minimalism’s wisdom to succumb to the pressure of over-indulgent spending, regardless how much our culture demands we reciprocate or impress.
3. Peer pressure. We don’t have to attend every party we are invited to or say yes to every obligation we are asked to take on. Instead of feeling obligated to please everyone and run yourself ragged in the process, choose to grace only select and meaningful events with your presence and commit to only family-inclusive projects. Oftentimes, the ones we love most end up getting shoved to the back burner in our mad quest to conform to the mold of social acceptance. Imagine the smiles and gratitude as they see you making the choice to put them first! Prevent regrets and keep priorities in order by choosing to create a special “party” at home with them instead of saying yes to others. Offer them agenda choices like baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa, and singing Christmas carols. Make endearing traditions and choose to please the ones you love. These are the things your kids will remember most.
4. Self-neglect. Society demands constant busyness. What it doesn’t tell you is that you will completely burn out if you don’t allow stillness to be an integral part of every day. You are important. You matter. You can’t be all you need to be if you don’t take care of your own needs. Spend time daily at the foot of the cross. Allow the stillness of being in His presence to fill your inmost soul. Accept His forgiveness and grace. Get enough sleep. Chew slowly, savoring each bite of food. Stay hydrated. Cherish moments for all they’re worth. Breathe deeply. Forgive all. Release worry. Trust God. Put Him first in everything. Unplug. Relax. Let silence take over. Embrace quietness. Be still and acknowledge the fact that He is God. Hand Him the reins, then follow His lead.
It is all about choosing not only our battles but whether we want to enlist in the war against stillness at all.