The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
This verse comes to us through Moses at a watershed moment. The Hebrew people have escaped Egypt. They now stand between the Red Sea and the anxious noise of Pharaoh’s army that is ominously breathing down their necks. Moses says to them; the Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. Let’s practise that now and have a period of silence for two minutes that begins and ends with this chime….
It’s amazing that when we still our minds and encounter silence, how much more attentive we are to noise. When we think about it, there are two types of noise we hear. The noise which we make ourselves because we can’t stand the silence and the external noise which surrounds us everywhere in the world. First let’s explore the latter, the external noise of headphones and earbuds, Bluetooth mobile phone pieces to the noise pollution of heavy machinery, aeroplanes, and traffic. A Harvard postgraduate student, Tim Gallati who has researched silence in terms of monastic spirituality and technology says this about noise;
We tend to background a lot of the sound and high volume activity that occurs around us. We might mistake that for coping or getting used to it. But you never really get used to it. Your body still has to process it. You don’t just hear with your ears. You hear with your whole body. We know this from walking by, say, a church organ and you feel that deep resonance in your bones, or a pounding jackhammer on a construction site. We really feel it. We’re almost like flesh and bone tuning forks.
The 2015 film “In Pursuit of Silence” explores the relationship between silence and noise and takes seriously evidence from the World Health Organisation that environmental noise has real negative health effects like cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and annoyance. Let’s watch this part of the promo for the film; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64c_1MtQUlM (from 2min mark)
The other type of noise that we hear is the noise we make ourselves because we can’t stand silence. Listen to what Erling Kagge says about this in his book “Silence; in the age of noise”;
In a joint study from the universities of Virginia and Harvard, scientists left individuals alone in a room for six to fifteen minutes without music, reading material, the chance to write or their smartphones. They were left solely to their own thoughts. The participants ranged from 18-77 years old and were drawn from a variety of backgrounds, yet the results were the same regardless. Most felt discomfort.
A third of the participants who took the test at home admitted that they weren’t even able to complete the assignment without breaking its rules, cutting short the minutes of sitting quietly.
One group was permitted to read or listen to music but was denied contact with other people. These participants reported higher satisfaction. Many of them also thought it was helpful to look out a window.
The scientists then took the study one step further…Each participant had been subjected in advance to a similar electric shock so they would know exactly how painful the option was. And it was painful. Nevertheless, nearly half of the subjects eventually pushed on the button to administer an electrical shock in order to reduce their silent time.
What was so striking, according to the researchers, was that being alone with one’s thoughts for 15 minutes ‘was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid’. One of the participants pushed the electric shock button 190 times. (Kagge: )
There are lots of layers of noise, distractions, anxieties for God to get through for us to hear him speak to us. Apart from the noise pollution of our urbanised world, there is also the noise that we create for ourselves because we struggle to be quiet. But as you reflect on this topic of silence and noise; the good news God says to you today just as he said to the anxious Hebrews fleeing the Egyptians; The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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