We ended 2013 in quiet—no toasts or party hats; not even a kiss at midnight. We began 2014 much the same way. My husband had surgery to repair his ACL at the end of last week, so he has been confined to his bed and to a machine that keeps his leg moving and his knee bending for at least eight hours a day. It is just the two of us, alone in our little apartment. Although the circumstances are special to us, the quietness is nothing new.
I didn’t expect this to be the lesson that the first months of marriage would be trying to teach me, the lesson of silence and of being alone. I certainly haven’t learned it yet, but I wonder if one of the best ways to learn something is to be aware that it is being taught to you. I don’t quite know yet what I am supposed to be learning, but I think I have a few ideas.
Quiet greeted us when we moved to a new city where we know no one. Of course we slowly made some acquaintances and maybe even a few friends, but most of our time is spent alone, just the two of us. My husband is an excellent conversationalist, and we love talking to each other, but inevitably a good bit of our time is filled with quiet, just the two of us.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Before marriage, I didn’t even consider the possibility that I could feel alone—sometimes even lonely—after gaining a husband. But I think aloneness can be felt and learned together. My dear friend mentioned to me the other day that maybe one of the biggest lessons of being alone is learning how to be alone with another person.
It is easy for me to feel discouraged or to despair when we are alone. I think our culture is scared of being alone in silence, so we can’t let our phone out of sight and we can’t sit anywhere without the accompanying noise of music or the television. I am learning that sitting in silence together can provide valuable time to think and pray and simply exist in time, inhabiting that moment instead of planning it away or living the lives of others through social media.
Silence gives time for thinking and contemplation, which seems to me to be one of the most important things we can do as human beings. Thinking becomes a way to remember, and remembrance leads us to love and gratefulness. Thinking is a means of gaining wisdom, perspective, and sight. Silence is also well-spent in the pages of a book, which always provides more to think about and learn. I think when it is loved and well-spent, silence becomes something that humans come to need, not as we need something that we idolize, but as we need water or air. We need it to exist.
I’m learning, slowly, that silence is a gift. It is not to be feared or quickly ended. It requires something very human of us—to sit and be still and allow thoughts and questions and prayers to fill the quietness. Isn’t that, in fact, where the Lord is found?
And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks 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 still small voice.
(1 Kings 19:11-12)