He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).
Ever been asked over for an evening at a house inhabited by children? Darling creatures one and all for sure, but the noise and their parents’ obliviousness to that noise could give one pause. Then there’s the conversations that cover anything from the serious (Aunt Meredith’s alcoholism) to the mundane (Want to see my new hair clips?), accompanied by the joyous melody of beginner violin. And the interruptions—now, now, now—something always needs attending.
Years have passed and suddenly you have entered the true A.D. (After Dependents) era. Years of wiping this and picking up that, and “Stop before you …” stretches a parent’s capacity to pause, to let one moment slip into another without human interruption.
If your home life is all verbal earthquakes and putting out fires, how will your family find space for the God of sheer silence, the still, small voice? How can you know what it is you are really meant to be doing?
Mealtime: Try incorporating silence into your meals with youngsters, perhaps before your prayers. Can everyone at the table close their eyes and start in silence, then open their eyes when ready but not break the silence until all at the table have opened their eyes?
When everyone at the table has opened their eyes, all say, “Amen.” Next, sing or pray the words of your family’s grace or simply let the silence be your prayer.
For little ones, it is helpful to suggest and then demonstrate breathing in quietly through the nose and out through the mouth three times to help concentration.
Daily: Pick one hour of each night when the whole family is home to measure the moments of pause.
Consider with family members the following questions: If you look at a watch, without telling anyone else what you are doing, how long are these moments of silence? What about when all electronics are off? Can you do anything to stretch those moments? Not respond so quickly to questions or demands? Encourage family to be still and think about these answers, listening for silence.