I love creating new playlists.
It started when I was in high school and made mix tapes. Each cassette tape was filled with songs that spoke to me at the moment.
Each mix had a catchy title and the cases were overly decorated, including song lists written in multi-colored pens and stickers…lots of stickers. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that after my Lenten discipline ended this year, I had to create a playlist.
At the start of this new year, I decided my word for the year
would be ‘listen.’ It’s hard for me to listen. My days are filled with so much hustle and bustle that I often forget to listen for God. So for Lent, I decided to intentionally stop the noise; to rid myself of the distractions of my daily life and listen. I turned off the radio in my car for six weeks. No music. No podcasts. No audio books. May sound like a simple discipline to implement. It was. But, it became extremely difficult for me to carry out. I yearned for my tunes! Music is my soul; the essence of my being, which was the very reason for this choice. For it to be a powerful, reflective experience, it needed to hurt a little bit. The idea was to listen in the silence. To be aware of my own thoughts and not be distracted by outside noise.
I knew that living in the silence would be calming. It encouraged reflection. It made me feel less frantic as I drove to appointments and meetings. I began to look forward to my time in the silence. And, surprisingly enough, I became less and less tempted to turn the music on. For six weeks I listened. I expected to have some moment of revelation. I didn’t. No audible voice; no ah-ha moment. Maybe that’s because I really don’t know what I was supposed to be listening for. I listen for guidance. I listen for answers. I listen so I’ll know which path to take. But, sometimes listening is waiting. Sometimes God wants me to yearn for His ways and just be. Sometimes I just need to get out of the way so that God can be heard.
I shared that I’ve been talking to God
more consistently in recent months. Me. Talking. Lately, I’ve been convicted that I may not be listening enough during my prayer time. Sometimes praying is being still. Praying is being present. Praying is simply listening for God. It should be a two-way dialog; a conversation. It shouldn’t be me talking all the time. When I listen instead of speak, God finds the right words for me to pray with. Listening opens up space for God.
At times, I listen and am met with a deafening silence. No nudging. No confirmation. Nothing. Complete stillness. It’s almost as if God isn’t there. I know this is my perception, since in reality God is always there. But, I get this image of Him taking a step back. He watches more from a distance. He wants me to struggle through something until I realize that I need Him.
Listening is seeking.
Listening is questioning.
Listening is yearning.
During certain seasons of my life, it’s been easier for me to listen than at other times. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been more receptive and open to God’s leading, but my discernment of God’s will seems to be directly related to my ability to listen for Him. I hear God in moments that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s fainter than a whisper and more delicate than a flutter. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but have experienced a force powerful enough to move me to make a decision with absolute certainty. How was the message so clear and my ability to listen so free from distractions during these times? Was I more open to receiving the message, or are these the times that God wanted me to move on and so He spoke to me in a way that I would ‘get it?’
After my six-weeks-of-no-music-in-the-car discipline, I joyfully turned my music back on Easter Sunday morning. My newly-created ‘Turning the Music Back on’ playlist was eager to make it’s debut on my car stereo. With tears in my eyes, I marveled at just how much God speaks to me outside of the silence. He uses music, conversations with others, life circumstances, and words on the page as modes for His message. My greatest gain was a deeper understanding and awareness of God at work in my life all of the time…through the noise and the quiet.
Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis
all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.
~ Frederick Buechner