Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

When silence becomes golden


"Be still and know that I am God."—Psalm 46:10

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? That question perplexes me.

I remember quite well the day my satellite radio/CD player fell silent. Because I was there to witness the event, I assure you there was no sound. One afternoon, as I was driving to my next meeting, my environment suddenly went silent. Just a momentary interruption, I presumed.

Two or three minutes passed; then I panicked. I pressed buttons and knobs on the equipment, but to no avail. Kaput! Zilch! Nada!

When you travel the highways as much as I do, losing that radio’s friendly sound is akin to losing a best friend. It’s like being the last rose of summer; it’s downright unfair and cruel.

Realizing a blown fuse might be the cause, I pulled to the side of the road and referred to the owner’s manual. After checking all the fuses, I determined the fault did not lie with my set. (If you remember that phrase from the era of black-and-white television, we have a lot in common). My next idea was to stop at a car dealership to have it checked. Getting that radio fixed was my No. 1 priority.

The service manager said, "Mr. Hayes, you’re going to have to leave your car overnight or come back tomorrow. The person who fixes our radios won’t be in until then."

Neither choice worked for me. My heart sank. Where was the radio man when I needed him? Didn’t he understand I had a life-and-death situation?

I drove away, convinced that without sound I might as well park my car and leave it.

Yet after a short distance, I noticed something within the radio silence inside my car. I began to hear other sounds around me, sounds I had not previously noticed. The broken muffler on the car beside mine at a stoplight. The evidence of bad brakes on the auto in front of mine. The siren of the ambulance two blocks away. It felt like entering a world I had never before experienced.

Shortly, I realized that I was tuning into my thoughts as I drove. Being in a car with no sound to distract me gave me a chance to get in touch with what my mind was processing.

At that moment, the silence became golden. I found myself speaking to God.

I started unraveling my problems, sharing my concerns with God, and voicing short prayers between subjects. The more I found myself in silence, the more I enjoyed it.

I discovered a faith lesson from a broken car radio.

Maybe God needs us to remove those things that distract, separate, divide us from the Holy One. Maybe God shows me that if I step away—even temporarily—from the noise and confusion of each day, I will find God’s peace that I so desperately need.

Perhaps the pace of your life is quickening as you prepare for this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

I encourage you to step away on occasion from the noise of the world around you, to seek and hear what God is saying to you.

Through my experience, I discovered what the Psalmist found out centuries ago. One way you can hear God speaking is when you are quiet and still. You can discover God when there is nothing to distract you.

If you’re traveling along the road and your radio goes out, don’t sweat it. That may be God trying to tune you in.


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