As Americans, we grow up in an on-the-go society. From a young age we are discouraged from being idle; instead we are taught to take up one new activity after another. There are certainly benefits to this, but sometimes we need to remember to slow down, take a moment, and relax. The stress of life can be so overwhelming at times, but simply taking a moment to stop what you are doing listen to the silence can calm you.
I never fully understood how “busy” the American life is until I moved to rural Africa. Now I have so much time on my hands to stop and listen, slow down and think, and enjoy my life as it is right now. I am not busy, nor am I idle. I am able to focus on improving myself and my relationship with God. I can do things that would inevitably fall to the wayside in America, like learn two new languages or study for the GRE. I’ve spent 16 months learning how to live the slower lifestyle of the developing world, and I like it. I have literally sat in my room and watched the floor dry after mopping, enchanted by the swirling patterns as the water slowly evaporated. I sometimes stand at my window and just watch what is happening outside….a group of children hauling water past my house, or a herd of goats meandering by.
Some people call this boring, but after living this lifestyle for a while, it has become relaxing and helps me rid myself of stress.
Stop and listen to the silence. Do nothing for a few minutes, and let yourself relax. As I open my ears, I begin to hear sounds that my thoughts and actions were drowning out: birds chirping, a hen clucking, children yelling, a group of kids singing down the road, the hum of my fridge, the mutterings of my host family inside the house, the fluttering of wings, the crackle of my metal roof as it cools down after the heat of the day, a door thumping closed in the main house…
We let ourselves get so busy that we forget to listen. What do we miss if we do this? Will you inadvertently ignore something God is telling/showing you? Do you take time to simply listen to the Lord?
Living a slow life has taught me a lot about my needs, myself, and the world I live in, and has helped shape new priorities in my life. Living among abject poverty has opened my eyes to a whole new part of the world, and all of these changes will be discussed here in the coming months. But most of all, it has taught me the value of a simple life, particularly how it helps me strengthen my relationship with the Lord.
Don’t let yourself get so busy that you forget to listen. What you may think is silence may indeed be the beautiful melody of life that you simply aren’t hearing.