April 20, 2017
I have always loved the quiet.
I suppose that’s partly my natural preference and partly because I was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Small Town, Ohio. My family values life lived well and slow; we take our time and breathe deep on rainy days because the earth smells like worms.
My mom has always been very particular about her quiet time with God. In the summer, those hours are spent stretched out on a quilt in the backyard, soaking up the words of Jesus and the sunshine from the ball of fire God suspended in the sky for our livelihood and our joy. In the winter, she curls up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of hot tea in front of the wood-burning stove in the living room, seeking refuge in the Lord and the warmth of the fire. In the seasons in between, she wanders outside for a walk in the woods while listening to a sermon on her phone or she settles in on the wooden swing under the cherry trees, Bible and journal in hand. She cherishes her quiet time because she knows that’s how she builds her relationship with Jesus and where she hears God best.
I think everyone has those quiet spaces, the ones that feel sacred and holy.
My dad’s quiet is found in the barn as he takes apart a truck, a motorcycle, a tractor – and rebuilds it, piece by piece. I used to wonder why he never wanted to turn on the radio while he worked, but now I get it.
My grandma is a fan of long walks through the farmland on which she has lived her entire life; through the fields in which her father and her husband and her son and now her grandson have labored for her livelihood, each generation gently, slowly pouring into the next. Farmers are experts at passing down their knowledge.
My favorite quiet spaces have always been outside.
I have sat for hours perched in a pine tree in the backyard, balancing high off the ground, creating entire worlds in my mind and my notebook. I have walked along a bubbling creek as I poured out my heart to God. I have read my Bible and asked hard questions beside the pond, watching the wind ripple the water, begging God to move in me. I have spent hours in the horse barn, brushing dark coats in circular motion or untangling manes and tails, mucking stalls and just sitting in the dim quiet as I talked to Jesus.
I used to call my hometown sleepy, but maybe a better word is quiet. There are quiet streets and quiet fields of corn swaying in the wind; a quiet post office and an even quieter library.
Sometimes, in the quiet is where we find the truth our hearts are longing for.
I think Jesus was a fan of quiet.
We read miraculous stories of Jesus’ ministry and it’s easy to hear exclamation points where he may have used a softer tone.
I used to have this image in my mind of Jesus in front of crowds, shouting Truth and Love like a Southern preacher at a tent revival. Certainly, there were times this would be an accurate portrayal. I’m sure there were times Jesus got a little too excited and shouted a bit.
But Jesus also whispered about Love and Life greater than we can imagine in smaller, more intimate spaces – even from the very beginning.
God chose to make himself lower and came to us in a burst of water from the holy space of a scared young woman who said yes to Him. In a cave-barn, among the animals, Jesus made his debut – a quiet hello to a world he didn’t have to know in this way; a quiet yes to a world he didn’t have to save.
Jesus taught Nicodemus in the middle of the night as he explained what it means to be born again, to be baptized in both the water and the Spirit. The Son came to give those who believe eternal life, Jesus told him.
In the middle of Samaria, Jesus spoke with a woman at the well, giving her hope and telling her about the water from him that becomes in us a spring welling up to eternal life.
The day after the disciples saw Jesus walk on water in the storm, they found him on the other side of the body of water where he told them about the bread of life. In me, you will never go hungry and you will never be thirsty, he explained to them. There is everlasting life for those who believe.
Just before the Passover feast, Jesus gathered the disciples and began telling story after story, revealing to them truth after truth. I have to go now, he said, but I’m making a way for you to come with me later. Do not be afraid, I’m leaving my peace with you. Love each other. I have overcome the world, Jesus said, have peace.
And then Jesus died for three days.
But even when he rose again, even during the event that would change the world forever and would save all who were in the world, he did it quietly.
Early in the morning, he appeared to Mary, speaking only a few words and sending her on a mission. That evening, Jesus found the disciples in a room, the doors locked in fear of the Jews, and showed them the nail scars in his hands: “Peace be with you!”
A lot of my favorite stories of Jesus happen in the quiet, in the unexpected places. It’s where we listen best.
Quiet is holy and sacred. Quiet is often where the Truth lies.