By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 3, 2023
The wind chimes on the back porch have been driving me mad during the night, so I was determined to silence them. I found an old ladder in the basement and dragged it onto the porch, but as soon as I started climbing on it, I realized the legs were wobbly. I then carried the heavy device up the stairs and out onto the front curb for trash day.
Next, I took the stepladder from upstairs and lugged it down to the porch. Ever so carefully, I climbed up and removed both sets of chimes. Moments later, settling with a sigh into a comfortable chair, I began reading. In short order, I was stunned to hear the heavy clanging sounds again. It took a moment to realize the chimes belonged to my neighbor.
This is just one of many attempts to secure peace within my home. When leaf blowers start roaring, I close the front door and shut the windows to keep out the cacophony. Sadly, some noise can’t be quelled like sirens shrieking, and the refrigerator and dishwasher emitting their unique grumbling sounds.
Man-made noise can be jarring, but nature’s sounds may be balm to our souls. My neighbor’s chickens often visit my yard and I love their gentle clucking as they search for worms and other tidbits. The cooing of doves, the call of a midnight owl, the cheeping of the wrens are reminders of God’s generosity, since he made birds both visually appealing and musically charming.
The tiny backyard voices of summer have faded. The tunes of the katydids and cicadas have given way to the mating calls of chipmunks. On my walks, I often stop at the creek, where the occasional rabbit makes an appearance on the bank. I feel so close to God, as I watch the water sliding silently and smoothly over the stones. The water seems to move endlessly and effortlessly, a reminder of how much happens in stillness.
Jesus would at times remove himself from the noisy crowds and escape to quiet spots to pray. Sometimes he’d go to the mountain and other times to the sea. He told us about the importance of praying in secluded places: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt 6:6)
When Jesus visits two sisters, Martha rushes around anxiously, trying to get the meal together. Mary, her sister, sits with Jesus and listens carefully to his words. She shows us the importance of giving God our full attention and heeding his voice. Jesus praises her highly: “Mary has chosen the better part and it won’t be taken from her.”
Author Caryll Houselander wrote, “God speaks silently, God speaks in your heart. If your heart is noisy, chattering, you will not hear.” It’s enlightening to notice the thoughts prancing across our mind when we’re quiet. Every worry, every fear, every desire, every temptation will reveal itself.
These distractions clamor for our attention, but when we name them, we can tame them. “There’s my worry about money, my greediness about getting new stuff, my regret over the past.” How strange that someone can be sitting quietly, alone in a room, and yet within a storm can be raging. Fortunately, the one who calmed the sea can subdue the waves crashing against our hearts.
Despite the clanging of chimes and the rumble of appliances, we can still invite God into the moments of delicious silence we are given each day. Perhaps then, we too can find the treasure Mary discovered as she sat at Jesus’ feet. The better part, which will never be taken from us.