As we pull up to the campsite--a small dirt space encased by jumbo rocks on three sides--the only thing there to greet us besides the cacti is the silence. It’s a deafening kind of silence--the type that, at first, your brain doesn’t know what to do with.
This kind of silence is extinct in my life.
As we set up the tent I realize this is the first time in two years I’ve taken a break. A mentor of mine suggested a retreat nearly a year ago. He said I was never going to be able to process all the shifts in my life if I didn’t slow down. You can’t hear God leading you if you always arrange for the noise to be louder than Him.
I didn’t listen. There was too much pressing all around me. I was convinced the world would surely fall apart if I stepped away for 48-hours.
This time my auto-responder is up. I have no more excuses to dish out. Our campsite is miles into the desert of California. There is no service even if I wanted there to be. I am forced to face myself, and the silence is shrill. My mind races for the first three hours and finally something breaks. I unravel a little and tell myself, “Relax. You have nothing to be afraid of.”
I’m tempted to live a life covered by noise. Even as I pray in the mornings, I find myself easily distracted by others. Tied to the stimulation is a bigger issue: I am looking for validation-- in the form of tweets and comments-- more than I am looking for God.
The praise never keeps me satisfied. There is a fork in the road: I can either survive by the scraps of validation from fragile humans or feed at the table of God and stay full.
Silence brings to the surface what the noise managed to bury.
By nightfall I am pouring words into my journal. I am being honest and reflecting for the first time in a while. I am laughing and crying and becoming inspired again. Peace meets me in the desert.
I think about the kind of leader I want to be. I don’t need to be a leader who is smart or quick with 140-characters but I ache to be a deep leader who is not afraid of what sits within her. I want to be rooted in God and I sometimes don’t know how to do that.
“I don’t want to neglect seasons that grow me down into roots,” I write. “I would like to always be building or always be laughing but Ecclesiastes 3 tells me there must also be the tearing down. There must also be the weeping.”
There is a time to speak, I read, and a time to keep silence. As I trace those words, I stop: keep silence. The Hebrew word for silence is “chashash.” It means “to be still.” Being still is the first step to planting roots deep down into God. Keeping silence is far more than just quieting the tongue.
Solomon goes on to say we will never control the timing. The purpose of us being here--leading and striving and sharing-- is not so we can become good at micro-managing people and noise. We could easily believe that lie, and body-slam every hour into the calendar but that is not the point. We are here to take on more of the person of Jesus, not more of the noise that sings to us about our fragile self-worth.
As the bacon sizzles in the frying pan placed above a propane tank, I realize the world has not crumbled as I’ve chosen to step away. Chances are, people don’t even know I’m gone. I can hear my thoughts for once.
They are filtered and not as frantic. I’m okay. God is here. And I must fight to reclaim this silence in my own life if I ever want to hear His voice clearly. If I can sit in the silence long enough, I will not need the roar of the world to fill my holes.
If I can dull the roar around me, I can hear what a real roar sounds like. The roar that makes my fears cease. The roar that keeps me rooted and makes me braver than I can be on my own.