(~there is silence)
Silence. I've been thinking of this word a lot lately. How I crave it at times in my own life and, how the world so desperately needs it. My husband and I are working on a problem in our marriage. He is an insomniac and he's turning me into one against my will. I was single for four years after my divorce, and one of the things that I missed so much was company in bed. When my first husband left, one of the unexpected side effects was how cold I was at night. I literally would shiver all night long without his body heat next to me. I had grown so used to his warmth. So, when I remarried, I looked very forward to things like talking late into the night, and spooning as we slept.
The problem is that my husband can't sleep. At least at night, anyway. So, I would try to drift off to sleep and he would stay awake watching television in bed until he fell asleep around 2am, or 3am, or 4am... or I would wake up and find him asleep but the TV still on. Or, he will sit in the bed next to me with his laptop and play video games with his headphones on. These things went on throughout my sleep-deprived pregnancy, and throughout my sleep-deprived baby months. I was getting resentful that his sleeping issues were becoming my problems. I have no problems sleeping under normal conditions, but the flashing lights of the television and computer screen and the constant background noise were making it really hard for me to sleep well. And then while he could go on sleeping through the morning, I was the one getting up with the kids and feigning alertness despite my heavy lids and oh, so tired mind. I didn't know what to do. It was his room too, but I came to the conclusion that the purpose of the bedroom must be honored, and those who can sleep, deserve to. I sweated the conversation though.
I kindly explained that for the last two years I have been dying for a good night's sleep and that the constant TV and computer screen made it really hard for me. I wondered if after about 10pm or so, when I was ready to go to sleep, and he was still not, if he would mind going downstairs until he was tired enough to sleep. "Sure," he said. "No problem." That was it? I had been preparing my defense all afternoon, ready to plead my case. (BTW, I've told him many times that I believe part of his sleep problems are precisely the things he uses to fall asleep...and the caffeine he drinks all blessed day, but he's not quite there yet.) And that was that. This brings up the new problem in our marriage: How do I get my husband back into bed with me? Now he takes a pillow and blanket downstairs and falls asleep to the television in the livingroom only to come back up when the kids wake him up in the morning getting ready for school.
So, why does my dear husband cling so vehemently to his electronic teddy bear? Because the silence drives him crazy. His mind starts seeping into such realms as bills, family relationships, sins, pressures, and other various stresses. In an attempt to steer clear of these thoughts, he allows himself very little complete silence. And I think he is not alone. I remember a psychologist once telling me that many people keep their lives noisy because the silence makes them uncomfortable, or rather, what they would hear or feel in the silence. These are the people that must fall asleep to the television, must have loud music on in the car, or in lieu of anything else to do, find themselves constantly on the phone. I used to be in this category. Sometimes I still slide on over, but for the most part, I just want some silence.
I recently heard a speaker address this very same issue from a spiritual standpoint. His name is Richard Holzapfel, a professor at BYU. He illustrated three main things that the ancients had that we are hard-pressed to find in our post-modern world: an absence of artificial light (they could actually see billions of stars, whereas we only hear about them), an abundance of silence, and personal solitude. These three factors in their environment made great thought and revelation possible. We are constantly distracted, by no small accident, by the lights and the sounds of this world. We have an adversary who would rather that our minds be filled with the messages of the ungodly. We have an enemy who strives to keep our minds noisy because then he keeps us from hearing that still small voice. That voice that teaches us, inspires us, and moves us to repentance. In the silence we feel uncomfortable things at times. We think about uncomfortable things, and we are forced to reckon with them. But that which is uncomfortable is also that which brings about mighty change.
I love silence. It can be a rare commodity in my busy life, but it is a soothing salve to my soul. I am okay to drive in silence, or with peaceful music quietly playing. I like the silence around me while I busy my hands in housework, and I like to turn off the television at night and let the silence direct my thoughts before sleep. It is during that time that I have had most flashes of inspiration or revelation in my life. It is during that time that I have felt comforted and known above and, ironically, it is in the silence that I feel most connected to life.