June 25, 2010

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Seek out silence to nurture a deep relationship with God

Sean GallagherOne of my favorite passages from the Old Testament is the story of the prophet Elijah when he came to Mount Horeb.

The Lord told him that he would soon be passing by. Elijah then experienced in succession a great wind, earthquake and fire—but the Lord was in none of them.

Elijah finally heard “a tiny whispering sound” and “hid his face in his cloak” because he knew that the Lord was now before him (1 Kings 19:12-13).

One of the reasons why I like this story is because it reminds me, a confirmed extrovert, to find time to be alone and quiet with God.

I often speak first and think later. And I often fall into a couple “occupational hazards” of extroverts: talking too much and not letting others have their fair share of the conversation, and not really listening to others when they’re talking because I’m thinking ahead of what I want to say next.

These are bad habits in human relationships. Think how much worse they are when the person on the other end of the conversation is God.

Earlier in my life, this lesson from the Old Testament was more difficult for me to learn because I was on my own and often moved from place to place every couple of years. For this reason, but also because of my own bad conversational habits, I didn’t build up many deep friendships during that time.

You could say that my relationship with God during that time mirrored my relationship with others. It was always there—just as I have always loved spending time with people—but it wasn’t as deep as it should be.

But now I’m married and am the father of four young, growing boys. God’s grace has worked on me a lot in these relationships to the point where I’m better now at being quiet and attentively listening to what others have to say. I know each day that I still have a ways to go in this regard, but, with God’s help, I’m improving.

And my relationship with him is improving, too. Again, with his help, I get myself out of bed earlier each morning than I would like so that, like Elijah, I can hear him speak to me in the quiet of my home before everyone else wakes up and the hubbub of the day begins.

A home where four rambunctious boys under 9 live can be a loud place a lot of the time. So carving out some quiet time to spend with God is important and something that I have to consciously do. It’s not going to happen on its own right now in my life.

Although a lot of you may not be the parents of four rowdy, fun-loving kids like I am, I suspect that your lives can be crowded with lots of distractions anyway. Between the Internet, MP3 players, increasingly powerful cell phones (which are effectively handheld computers), and hundreds of TV channels to watch, there isn’t a moment of our day that has to be silent if we choose to fill it with noise.

But is God speaking to us in all of the wind, earthquakes and fires of our lives? If he is, are we trying to listen for his voice or to the shouts of so many people in our popular culture?

No matter what your state in life is these days, it can be a real challenge to step away from the constant din of our media-driven society. But if we want to have an ever-deepening relationship with God, then doing so, hopefully on a daily basis, is an absolute necessity. †

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