It’s a real sickness of our day and age to have almost zero time for stillness and quiet, except of course when we are asleep, and some of us don’t even get a good amount of it. I see this tendency to want constant activity, stimulation, and entertainment not just in me but in the lives of my own kids.
On some days, my kids will come to me in the afternoon when there isn’t much going on and ask, “What Am I Going to Do?” My reply sounds something like this, “I don’t know. I’m sure you will figure it out.” (Smiley face.)
Here is what my kids need to understand. I am not responsible for entertaining them or thinking up activities to fill their day, everyday. While I take charge of their homeschooling in the mornings, and remind them about their responsibilities, what they do with their discretionary time afterwards ought to be their look out. If they get bored because they don’t get to use a gadget, watch a program, or have their friends over, I don’t make it my problem to keep them busy. It’s their problem. And it’s a good problem.
My kids need to deal with down-time… “screenless-ness,” quietness. They can invent, create, build, do pretend play, read or even just sit and think! After all, they have supplies, toys, games, objects in their environment, a ton of books, as well as each another to stay preoccupied.
And guess what? Whenever I tell them that they can figure out how to entertain themselves, they usually do, anyway. Tiana was the one who asked the question about what to do today. After thirty minutes of leaving her alone, she came back and presented to me a miniature model of a room using the top of a cardboard box. There were three pieces of furniture in the room – a bed with a blanket and donut pillow, an area rug, and a table. It was adorable! (She’s also just pulled out her paintbrushes and told me she will be doing art.)
Titus, my nine year old, finished a five hundred plus page book over the last few days which was kind of a miracle! He’s just started to get into novels so I was so proud of him for persevering and using his discretionary time wisely.
Kids need a little boredom sometimes to become un-bored and productive. I reckon it’s the same for us, as adults, too. We don’t always need to default to our phone to mindlessly surf through social media feeds or sites, or to install a new app to entertain ourselves with.
According to research, sensorial overload on the brain burdens the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for high-order thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. This leads to mental fatigue, focus and problem-solving issues as well as the inability to generate new ideas. However, the brain can restore itself when stimulation is removed, and it is allowed time to rest. (Source: Huffington Post)
Silence also regenerates brain cells. Hmm…there’s hope for me!
A study done on mice who were exposed to two hours of uninterrupted silence versus mice who were exposed to noise, experienced the creation of new brain cells. “The area affected was the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is responsible for encoding new memories.” (Source: Why Silence is Good for the Brain )
No wonder why I have short-term memory problems! What’s this article about again?!
The truth is many of my eureka moments for articles and entries come to me when I am not overpopulating my mind with external stimuli.
This is me trying to look like I am thinking about something profound…
Quiet isn’t just about detaching from our phones or avoiding Netflix. It is also about saying no to too many activities. I got a horrible cold because Edric and I traveled four times in September, and we had late evenings in the past week with people. Most of these nights were about ministry, but they took a toll on my body. If there’s one predictable cause for body-breakdown for me, it’s disrupted routines. I’m recovering now and thankfully, the rest of October should be less hectic for Edric and me.
Edric and I also decided to turn down invitations for speaking engagements that weren’t previously scheduled for the balance of the year because we need a season to learn and enrich ourselves. Our plan is to benefit from the quiet by growing in wisdom and physically recharging through rest so we can ready ourselves to give more to others next year.
The most valuable thing about quiet which I pray my kids eventually internalize is enjoying God’s presence and His truths. King David was a great example of this as many of his Psalms speak of him meditating on God’s principles and who God is.
“Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” Psalms 4:4
“I will meditate on all Your work and muse on your deeds.” Psalms 77:12
My inward being as well as your inward being needs to be nourished and watered. Since we aren’t one dimensional but body, soul and spirit, we aren’t healthy when we are neglectful of our inner persons. If we are always moving about, jetting from one place to another, consumed by our work or activity-centered lifestyles, as well as defaulting to entertainment and stimulation via media, apps, the internet and social media platforms, the part of us that really matters doesn’t get fed and doesn’t grow.
The counterintuitive thinking that God’s word also demonstrates is that the Lord can accomplish much on our behalf and for us when we trust Him by resting in Him. I have said this before but I will say it again. When I don’t carve out time to soak in God’s Word and pray, I run on limited energy and capacity. In fact, on days when I forget to read my Bible because I am rushing here and there, I am a bad version of myself — irritable, harried, anxious, and reactive. My focus is not spiritual. Instead it is about what is material and in front of me. Yet, it’s amazing how giving the Lord the first part of the day positively affects every part of who I am and what I do. God fights my battles for me.
I am reminded of the story of Moses and the Israelites who were overwhelmed by the pursuing Egyptians. But here’s what Moses told the people. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Paraphrasing the last part: “Joy, I got you. You need only be still and quiet in my presence.”
Isn’t that so reassuring?!
So enjoy the stillness and quiet, and let’s teach our kids to be able to do the same. Our minds and inward persons need a break to recharge, to grow, and to be more productive. And in the moments when we feel like nothing is happening, God is always doing something in us and for us!