Another insight and challenge gained from my recent reading of Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, is our need for quietness and listening. 

A few weeks ago, just after reading Buchanan’s chapter on the subject, I made a quick trip to QuikTrip (pun intended) for an edible pick-me-up to get me through the rest of the afternoon at the office.  As I exited the crowded convenience store and walked back to my car, I decided to focus on what I could hear rather than on what I could see (mostly people, cars, gas pumps, etc.) and feel (mostly the 110 degree outside air).  I paused for a moment, closed my eyes, and was immediately overwhelmed by two dominant sounds that I had not even consciously noticed to that point. 

Diesel and cicadas.

Around the corner of the store, well beyond my field of vision, there was an idling 18-wheeler.  The distinctive “rattle and rumble” of the diesel engine seemed to be amplified by echoing off of surrounding structures.  And, despite the volume of the engine noise, I could still clearly hear the higher-pitched, raspy chorus of numerous cicadas that populated nearby trees and shrubs.

Diesel and cicadas.

On the drive back to the office, and for the next several minutes after my arrival, I reflected on memories associated with these sounds over the course of the nearly five decades of my life.  

Cicadas are the sound of summer.  While I was introduced to the sound of cicadas in the tree-filled suburbs where I grew up, it was during summertime visits to my grandparents’ farms in Tennessee and Georgia that the sound was cranked up by dozens of decibels to an ear-piercing crescendo.  Their discarded shells could be comically clipped to your ear, clamped onto the end of your nose, or used to startle your unsuspecting sister.  As my senior year at Lipscomb University was coming to a close in 1985, the city of Nashville was invaded by a horde of millions of the 13-year cicadas known as Brood XIX, or The Great Southern Brood.  The sound was incredible in the massive, old-growth trees on campus.  Cicadas were flying everywhere, easily getting entangled in the locks of young ladies who sported the “big hair” of that era.  You can imagine the sights and sounds of their reactions.  Guys from the dorm made a sport of seeing how many of the flying insects they could swat and snare with the strings of their tennis rackets.  Right on schedule, Brood XIX showed up throughout the South in 1998 and again this year; an odd, amazing, and predictable life cycle within God’s creation.          

The sound of the diesel engine at QuikTrip reminded me of my grandfathers’ tractors, which I got to drive long before I was allowed to get behind the wheel of a car.  It reminded me of the big rigs parked and idling at truck stops and rest areas on those long summer trips to visit family and friends.  It reminded me of the diesel van in Australia that a few friends and I travelled in from Queensland on a marathon trip to the Sydney area for a youth encampment in 1987.

Not a big deal?  Maybe.  But I got to relive some wonderful, joyful memories simply because I took a brief moment to listen.

Maybe it’s the kind of thing that the apostles did every time they heard the sound of a strong wind, and they remembered the events of the Feast of Pentecost following the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, when the promised Holy Spirit filled and empowered them.  I can’t imagine that the sound could have ever been separated from their memories of that experience.  Perhaps the aged apostle John remembered the voice of the glorified Son of Man every time he heard the crashing of the waves on the island of Patmos.

Silence and listening allow us to learn and remember.  They provide opportunities to perceive and reflect upon God’s will in our immediate circumstances.  Listening lets us pick up on nuances of emotion, anxiety, and discouragement in the voices of our spouses, children, and brothers and sisters in Christ, permitting us to go deeper than merely hearing their words.

Take some time today to listen, really listen.