Ordinary Quiet: Finding Peace in a Noisy World
This is the last in this series on the blog surrounding the ordinary faithfulness of the body of Christ and the work of the Spirit throughout it. Click here to see all of the pieces. My hope is you will be encouraged and spurred on to be faithful in the small.
Down an old country road in Indiana, just where the weight of the city starts to slip off your shoulders- you’ll find a long driveway leading to a modest farm. Fields of corn and beans surround the big white barns where sheep and baby lambs once found shelter. The surrounding pasture was the playground of chickens, guineas, and peacocks- corralled, at times, by a faithful Great Pyrenees. The remnants of a large vegetable garden sit beside the driveway, where diligent hands dug to turn the fallow ground.
At night you can hear the hum of crickets and the croak of the frog that lives at the bottom of a nearby hole. It’s quiet. A quiet felt not only in the environment, but in the being of the man who lived on and tended the piece of land for years. Ray Paxton is the kind of man who makes you listen when he speaks. Yet even as a man of few words, my husband’s grandfather has left a legacy loud enough for all around him to hear.
Ray’s quiet life allowed him to be generous- generous with the time he spent gardening and generous with his careful words- often used for important things like identifying leaves for his grandchildren or instructing them in the way of sheep farming. The quiet kept his hands moving to help others and his mouth closed. At least until he found himself on his knees in his prayer closet.
NOT BASED ON CIRCUMSTANCES
Too often we can confuse quiet with ease. Ray’s life is anything but. In the middle years of his life he walked through the painful loss of his first wife- the mother of his three young adult children. And for the last decade he faithfully cared once again for his ailing second wife. Quietly he helped get her food, push her wheelchair, and assist with her every need.
Not too long ago we took one of his own Bibles for our own. As I searched through the well-worn pages and glanced through the highlighted words, I found the source of the strength that made his kind of quiet possible, even in the midst of deep pain. Bright yellow phrases jumped out at me- proclaiming Christ’s faithfulness, his steadfast love, and of the Spirit who intercedes on our behalf. You see, Ray’s quietness hadn’t been built upon the superficial. Instead it is the quietness of a soul that rests in his Maker. Still full of anxious worries, he chose to take them before the King and to sharpen his heart with the truth of Scripture.
I didn’t really need his Bible to know this. We all knew it. If there was anything that drew out his introverted self, it was his desire to share with his family the truth of the gospel. His silence held back idle talk, but he was ever ready and willing to share what matters most- his faith in the gospel of Christ. And in doing so, we felt the weight it held in his life.
FINDING TRUE QUIET
Some might call Ray’s quiet life a lost opportunity- a poor use of what he has been given. Because we consume so much noise, we, too, can easily believe the lie that we have to always contribute. We think we must give our own opinions. And with just a few quick swipes of the finger we can have a say on anything from politics, religion, to baby-rearing. Sooner or later, it gets exhausting- and while we may long for quiet, we will only truly find it when we search in the right place.
We can’t pursue the quiet life God calls us to by simply camping in the woods or deleting all our social media apps. No, in reality, the quiet we need is the outworking of an inward rooted strength. One that’s put there by the God who made us and bought us back by his blood. We are still, not because of our outward situations, but because we know the one who is God (Ps. 46:10).
STANDING OUT…WITH SILENCE
As much as the world would like for us to believe, we don’t need more noise to succeed or lead fruitful lives. God works out his radical love within the quiet places. It’s why Paul urges the Thessalonian church towards doing more and more- then immediately tells them to live quietly (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Because just like always, God is the one working his life-transforming love while we quiet our pride and self-sufficiency. I’ve seen it in Ray, when he quietly served his ailing wife, or quietly worked the small piece of ground God had given him. His whole family saw, and the quiet acts spoke volumes.
Do you find yourself adding to the noise? We don’t want to chase silence as some mystical goal- but are we quieting our souls with confidence in God and his finished work? Are our actions rooted in the peace that the Lord only provides (John 14:27)? When they are, God will show his fruit in our days. Maybe it will be in something as simple as holding off a Facebook post and praying for that heated issue. Perhaps it will be saying no to one more addition to our schedule because we know that God is sovereign, and we are not. Or maybe it will prompt us to put down the screen of distraction in our hands and instead take our worries before the one who is able and present.
We don’t have to have a flock of sheep or live in a tiny home off-grid to live quiet lives. We can have quiet souls even in seasons of screaming children or in the midst of unending responsibilities. There is nothing greater than the news of the gospel to quiet our noisy hearts every moment of every day. This is the quiet we need to hold on to.
And in something as ordinary as the quiet- our world can’t help but take notice.