Be Still

quiet-600x400Sherilyn appreciates stories in all forms, and is especially interested in how art reflects culture. She harbors an irrational fear of sharks and lives with her husband and four children in the beautiful, ocean-free community of South Ogden, Utah. She feels energized by people (especially teenagers) and dreads writing bios.

I’m a talker by nature and profession, and for a week I was entirely without a voice. I thought I had escaped the infections that manifested in my family members as nasty head colds, pink eye, and bronchitis, yet just as their coughing quieted and eyes brightened, my throat erupted in a fire all its own. Within hours, my volume dwindled to mute. The forced silence left me floundering at first.

Work seemed challenging. A voiceless workshop presenter provides nothing for a classroom full of attentive listeners. Luckily, I had recently acquired a willing backup, and he filled in with ease. I am fairly certain, though, that by the end of that week, my cubicle neighbors felt more than annoyed by all the whispering that had occurred within my four non-private walls. I understand that if you’re on the outside of a whisper conversation, incessant “Psst, psst, psst, psst,” sounds feel akin to nails on a chalkboard. And since I was whispering, almost always the other person would whisper, too. (It must feel excessive to speak at full volume to someone who can’t get a word out.)

These limitations at work proved nothing compared to home, though. It was impossible to call everybody for dinner, give instructions, or break up a fight. I found myself desperately gesturing orders, pointing to my husband or older children to provide explanations for one another, which inevitably left most of us shrugging our shoulders or shaking our heads.

It just so happened that at the beginning of this same week, I was called to be the Stake Young Women’s President, and was tasked with submitting names for counselors and a secretary by the upcoming Sunday. It was within this assignment that I realized anew the significance of the phrase, “Silence is golden.”

Throughout the week, I spoke less and thought more—a lot more. With the quiet came clarity. Unencumbered by my out loud voice, my thoughts and feelings conversed freely with one another, checking in periodically with God. With a real prayer in my heart for days, my demeanor settled to calm. Without speech, I lacked control over so much of what I was used to handling. So I let go of some of those other previously “necessary” duties, and just listened.

I listened to my thoughts at night when I was up with an eerily soundless, yet violent cough. One morning, I actually listened to the entire account of my nine-year-old’s dream (without interrupting her or asking for the shorter version). At one point, with no volume to assist my children, and homework happening all around me, I sat on the couch, and recalled the voice and advice of my Stake President, while I jotted down points to consider when selecting counselors.

On one rare afternoon, when I was alone in the house, I even listened to my body, and heard it craving to be stretched. I arranged myself on my happy, two-toned, green rug in the living room, and peeled off one layer of shirts. After queuing some quiet music on the laptop near me, I folded into a sitting, cross-legged position and closed my eyes. Remembering some relaxing poses I learned last year in yoga class, I slowly and effortlessly moved in and out of them, ending in my favorite, forward-leaning “child’s pose.” In that submissive moment, I swear I could hear peace. It sounded like two names of women I’d been considering for counselors. It sounded like a declaration of love from my Father in Heaven. It sounded like assurance that my family would be okay, despite our struggles. It was the sound of enlightenment, and I basked in it, as the sun shone in through the windows onto my bowed back.

The next day, I culminated my search for names in the pristine reverence of the temple. During a tranquil moment, a face I had not previously considered emerged in my mind very distinctly. This woman seemed so beyond my own earlier reflections, that I instantly recognized the divine inspiration. With that, the spots were filled, and once outside the temple, I conveniently texted my selections to the assigned counselor from the Stake Presidency.

As it turned out, I did not require a voice for this weighty task. In fact, I wondered if it was coincidence at all—losing my volume that particular week. I like to think that Heavenly Father was looking out for the young women in our stake and wasn’t going to let the cacophony of my busy life drown out His purposes.

In my compulsory silence, the presenter, leader, mom, debater, and teacher roles all took a back seat to the one role I too often neglect—that of the listener. As I yielded to my quiet condition, I deferred to the voice of the Holy Spirit in a more all-encompassing way than ever before. I accepted the gentle reminder to embrace meekness. All week, the same phrase washed over me again and again: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10). I prayed that once my voice was restored, I would remember to return more often to that stillness.

5 thoughts on “Be Still

  1. There is a kids’ book called “No Talking” by Andrew Clement that I keep rereading. It is about fifth graders who have a contest between the boys and the girls to see who can talk less. The rules are pretty basic — they can talk to teachers only if spoken to, and they can only use three words. By the end of the book, all of the fifth graders really have learned the value of silence.
    What could we learn if we could take a day or two and just listen?

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