The Sound of Silence

I’ve never been great at silence.

I’m a natural born extrovert—friend and conversationalist to all. I’ve basically been talking since birth. I can talk to anyone, anywhere, about just about anything. 

In line at the checkout counter? The perfect time to start a conversation with the person behind the register. Waiting for your bags at the airport? An opportunity to make small talk with the people around you. I’ve befriended my pharmacist, my doctor, my massage therapist, the ladies at the nail salon, my barista at Starbucks, the teachers at my Pure Barre, all by talking to them every time I see them. It’s not that I’m some amazing conversationalist; it’s just that given the choice between silence and speaking up, I typically tend to start talking. 

You may have noticed some silence on this blog in the last month. Half of that is because May turned into an insanely busy month. It was filled with travel and sickenss and work and the general busyness of a life that took many unexpected turns in the last four weeks. Though nothing major, it was enough to add up and overwhelm. 

But if I’m honest, the silence on this blog has also been because I feel a little bit at a loss for words. I’ve been walking through a season of what feels like silence in the last few months. I can’t explain where it came from or understand what caused it. It just happened. I woke up one morning weighted down by it, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. I’m using all the tools at my disposal—all the prayer, all the counseling, all the mentoring, all the exercise, all the healthy choices—but it’s just stuck with me. At least for now, the silence remains. 

I know that sounds very Simon & Garfunkel-esque, but I don’t know what else to call it. It feels like a season of silence.

Though they didn’t have the classic “Sound of Silence” song lyrics to draw on, I wonder if this is what the Israelites felt all those years ago, wandering and wandering in the desert, believing they were moving toward the Promised Land but plagued by the seeming silence of God as they went. Or the people living in those 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament—the years before Jesus arrived on the scene. Were they weighted down by silence and wondering what to do with it? Or those people living in the days after Jesus died—the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I’ve thought about those people in particular a lot as of late. Surely they must’ve wondered if their futures were going to be filled with the weight of this silence. It only lasted three days, but I’d argue they were the three longest, heaviest days of their lives. 

When I think about those stories, I have to stop and remember this: I live on the other side of the story. I know how the story ends. I know what the promises are. And so even in seasons that feel so weighted with a lot of heavy, unshakeable silence, I have the advantage of keeping my eyes on a promise that says the story will end well.  

And that helps… sometimes. I’d love to be that perfect Christian who just stands perfectly on the promises of God all the time, but I’m just not. Sorry, ya’ll—that’s just real talk. In fact, nothing shakes me up more than seasons like this that are filled with silence. It’s not that I don’t believe the promises aren’t true or aren’t coming; it just doesn’t always make me feel better.

When I say this to my counselor, she is always quick to remind me that my feelings lie to me; they aren’t a symbol of what’s real. Well, that’s great lady, but it sure doesn’t change the way I feel! But like most people, I just try to keep moving forward, eyes on the prize, even when it doesn’t make me feel better.

And it’s always then that some crazy, out of nowhere thing happens to remind me that it’s a prize and promise worth keeping my eyes on. 

A few weeks ago I had really exciting Tuesday night plans; I was going to see Hamilton here in Atlanta. Now if you don’t know what that is, stop and Google it immediately. I’ll wait….

Okay, now that you know, we can go on with the story. I love theater. I love musicals, and plays, and ballets, and concerts, and basically most forms of live entertainment. In another life I believe I was some Broadway star; in this life, I’m just a nerd in the audience!

I’d been looking forward to this night for months. I had purchased only one ticket (because they were expensive and hard to come by!), but I had a few friends going that night as well so we decided to make an evening of it. 

But then, the night came. And one by one in the hours leading up to the show, those friends dropped out. They had schedule conflicts. They needed to sell the ticket for money. They had a childcare mix-up. They didn’t want to fight the 5:00 Atlanta traffic. What started as a girls’ night ended up becoming a solo girl night.

And if I’m honest, I didn’t want to go. The thought of suddenly doing this whole evening by myself just wasn’t my idea of fun. But at this point, I was already in the car. I was already on the way. I’d already spent the money. So under the weight of the silence, I decided to buck up and go, no matter how much I didn’t want to do it alone. 

Dinner plans thwarted, I pulled into the drive-thru of my trusty Chick-Fil-A to grab a meal on the way. As I waited in the line, I literally prayed out loud. I told God how I felt like things weren’t turning out, how I felt freshly weighted down by silence, how I just wanted to feel a little less on my own in the world that day.

As I pulled up the window, I was greeted by a perky, teenage Chick-Fil-A employee (because aren’t they all so great?) who quickly informed me that the lady in front of me had decided to pay for my meal. And then, she said, “I just love when people do that! It makes you feel like somebody’s got your back, right? Like you’re a little less alone in the world or something.”

Ya’ll, I tell you this in total honesty: I started crying. Like right there as I took my food, I felt tears coming down my cheeks. Let’s just say that by the time I thanked her for the food, her typical, “My pleasure!” came out as more of a question than anything else. 

Sometimes the silence stays. Sometimes it feels heavy. Sometimes circumstances don’t change. Sometimes we feel it, and we can’t shake or explain it. Sometimes people don’t understand. And sometimes, it’s just a lot. 

And then, out of nowhere, God breaks through the silence with the swipe of a debit card from the stranger in line in front of you in the drive-thru to remind you that the silence isn’t forever. The promises are still there. They’re still coming and worth pressing on for. 

Sometimes they come in encouraging words, or random phone calls, or good news, or life changes. And sometimes they come in the form of a #4 with a diet lemonade and a sweet teenager in the drive-thru on your way to a play. 

Either way, I’ll take. 




Sara Shelton