Last weekend on our annual Jr. High retreat to Cran-Hill Ranch we went on a late afternoon hike. It was a perfect winter day, the temperature was just right to be bundled up and spend the day playing out in the winter wonderland. A group of about 10 of us headed out on this hike, we headed to Cranberry Lake, the smaller of the two lakes at Cran-Hill, it is at the back of their 300 acres, far removed from the busyness of the rest of the camp. It was great to hike in the snowy woods knowing that many of the student never had an opportunity to enjoy a walk in the woods, especially in the winter. When we got back to the lake it was stunningly pristine, we were some of the first people back there for what must have been weeks. There was hardly a footprint, no ice fishing shanties, no other people in sight, so we played on the ice for a while, made some cool snow angels, and threw some snow balls. As we were out on the ice on of my leaders, Tyler turned to me and said “listen” and that moment I stopped talking and did my best to listen and I didn’t hear a thing, not a sound other than a few Jr. Highers giggling. So we urged everyone to be silent, it took a few attempts because they are middle school students who can’t help but interject with the fake sound of a bodily function, but after a moment they caught on. The silence was amazing, being far removed from the rest of camp, with a foot a fresh powder insulating the woods you couldn’t hear a thing. The lake was so quiet I could hear my heart beat. After a few moments the students began to become uncomfortable with the silence and began to resume the giggles and conversations but the leaders in the group knew that somehow God was in the special moment, it was something you couldn’t explain but it was a brief morsel of time were you knew that God was present, when you experience something new and amazing.
That moment got me thinking how often to we experience the beauty of silence? And how often do we teach or kids about the beauty of silence? We live in a world that is filled with noise and when there isn’t noise we are sure to fill with noise. Spend a few hours with a teenager and you will see just how used to noise they are. In a noisy van on the way up to the retreat, where there were 4 or 5 conversations going at one time they still begged for the radio. When is the last time you saw a kid walk down your sidewalk without there headphones on, it is a rarity. Teenagers are used to noise, it is their comfort zone. I know that I am not much better, I always have music or a podcast on in my office, a fan on just to sleep, or the TV on at home just for background noise. We are uncomfortable in the silence.
The problem is that God is known for speaking to us in the silence. If you recall the story of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings you know that he was hiding in the mountains in a cave when God told him to go out onto the mountain and listen for God to speak. There was an earthquake and there was fire but God did not speak in either but God spoke in a gentle whisper.
How are we to hear the gentle whisper of God when our world is filled with noise pollution? How are teenagers going to hear the still small voice if we don’t teach them to appreciate the sound of silence? And even if we create a time for silence and God doesn’t speak in the silence I know that silence is good for the soul and in our world of sound clutter a moment of quiet can be magical, a moment where God is present. I was certainly reminded of that last weekend on an icy lake in the Northern Michigan woods.