A wildlife enthusiast friend of mine recently told me of a study he read which stated that many songbirds throughout North America have resorted to primarily performing their mating calls either at night or in the early morning hours, well before sunrise. This is something that I’ve certainly observed while living in Missouri recently. I generally get up around 4:45 AM to start my day, and during the past few peak months of spring I’ve noticed that the birds have been singing incredibly loud! According to the study, the reason for this high volume, predawn and dusk singing is that our world has become so noisy (especially in city and suburban environments) that the birds have a very hard time communicating…especially in regard to hearing each other.
No doubt about it, we live in a very noisy world that is full of activity and distractions. Our days can be filled with the sounds of vehicles racing up and down the streets and highways, jets zooming through the sky overhead, phones ringing all day, non-stop talking and texting, music, social media, TV, etc., etc. It can be almost impossible at times to get away from it all. Even places that are supposed to have more of a quiet spirit can be noisy and distracting these days. For example, I often have a hard time praying at church on Sunday morning, due to the constant chit-chat going on around me, people on their phones texting and checking their Facebook feeds, etc. All the noise and chaos is one of the reasons that I’ve followed the example of the birds and get up super early to enjoy at least a couple hours of peace and quiet.
It seems that our noisy American culture has a great fear of silence and stillness. A common reaction many folks have when subjected to long periods of quiet is, “I can’t take all this silence!!! I need___________ (fill in the blank.)” And, it is that very “need” that keeps us from realizing our true need, which I believe is the need for God in our lives. While it’s reported that the vast majority of Americans believe in God, or, a “Higher Power” of one kind or another, and that most people pray, at least periodically…in one way or another…I would wager to bet that few take the time to truly listen to what God has to say in answer to those prayers.
Prayer is simply a form of communication which involves speaking, and, perhaps even more importantly, listening. As many songbirds throughout the land have discovered, it’s very hard to hear clearly in a world full of distractions and noisy chaos. Indeed, silence and stillness are key to attentive listening…either to those around us, and more so, to God. In silence, we no longer distract ourselves with the noisy nonsense of this world. We become hyper-aware of the things in our lives and in our souls that truly matter, and, that may need serious attention…things that ultimately lead to wisdom and peace.
Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta elaborated beautifully on this verse, as she once said, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature; the trees, flowers, and grass grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” That’s good advice for all. And, perhaps the first soul we need to get in touch with is our own. So the next time you head out to the great outdoors, make it a point to soak in the sacred stillness that the natural world offers. Open your ears and listen carefully…not just to those songbirds who are trying to be heard, but more so, listen to that voice which perhaps has been trying to speak to you for a long time, but has been either purposely or unintentionally drowned out with the noise and distractions of life.