I spent a night in a new place. So I was surrounded by new sounds. And as I listened I realised that sound and noise was normal for the life I lead. When do I find silence? I am grateful for the gift of hearing – and yet I know that there are many to whom this gift has not been given. Do they, in the silence that is their world, commune with God more than I, who am distracted continuously by noise? Is this their gift – an ability to hear God more clearly in their silent world? And for me, hearing, do I listen? Do I actually hear? What about you?
Be still and know that I am God… Psalm 46:10
The night is dark. There is an almost full moon, but it does not reach the confines of my inner city room. Nor can I hear traffic, surrounded as I am by trees and buildings and acres of garden. It is late and the others who are staying here are returning to their own rooms to sleep. Voices are muted and fall silent, doors close, and all is quiet.
But then it begins.
Pop … pop, pop … pop … pop, pop, pop. A single sound builds to a chorus outside my window. For a moment I am mystified – and then I understand. Frogs! As the world quietens it is time for them to have their say. The noise increases, and a picture of a little child with a bubble wand comes to my mind. The child runs and bubbles stream out behind her, but, instead of just seeing each bubble burst in a spray of rainbow light, I hear them too: pop … pop … pop. The sound reaches a crescendo and then suddenly, as if the choirmaster has given the final beat – all is quiet again. Every frog stops.
How can that be? It is as if each one has said what they need to say and then falls silent; nothing more to say; no need to waste breath and energy in useless comments. Their opinions have been expressed. Do they, in this calm interval, consider what has been said by all the others?
Somehow I doubt it, but the question wells up inside me – do I? Am I so busy expressing my opinion on and on – determined to be the last to speak – or am I willing to say what I need to say and then fall silent; and in the silence listen, consider, learn?
Now the moment of tranquillity is over and the frogs are popping away for all they are worth. The noise rises and swells. My life is full of noise. And I offer up a prayer – may I, in the coming day, be aware that silence is golden for it is only then that I can listen; only then that I can hear. As I turn over to sleep I wonder what I will hear in the silence…