Monday afternoon, I loaded the two little ones into the van and then ran to put the Netflix disc in the mailbox. And in the instant I stepped from the shelter of the garage into the single-digit cold, it registered: Silence.
It should have been obvious to me a long time ago that there is no silence in my life. But, like most parents, I tend to fix on these magic words: nap time…bedtime, to help me keep my patience when nonverbal children are fighting over a toy or whining because they’re unhappy about who knows what. (Being stuck inside, most likely.)
I get those “quiet” times…when the little ones are downstairs playing nicely together, or they’re sleeping upstairs. So why did the quiet outside instantly pierce my soul, as if something deep in the core of my being had been flailing around, searching with increasing desperation for something I wasn’t giving it, until that grace-filled moment when I had to run to the mailbox?
Naturally, we were pushing late, and I didn’t have time to analyze the feeling. Sighing, I bowed to the inevitable. I got in the van with my two squealing children and went to pick up Alex from kindergarten.
But that night, after doing Christmas crafts with the kids, after doing dishes and praying a decade of the Rosary with Alex and tucking three children in with kisses and munchies…after all the business of the day was done, while Christian sat down to send a couple of emails, I slipped on my fur-lined boots and zipped my coat, and I stepped out onto the deck.
Of course, it wasn’t really silent. We live in a huge cookie cutter subdivision, a mile from the interstate. Silence isn’t in the cards here. And yet it did the trick. All the seized-up tension in my chest gave a great shudder and released as I looked up at blurry gray stars in an orange-charcoal sky. I stood for about three or four minutes until it simply got too cold to be outside, but when I went back in, the house felt like a warm, inviting cage.
I realize now that even during nap time, my quiet house is full of the noise of enclosure: the hum of the computer and the refrigerator, the low rumble of the dryer and the noisy hiss of the dishwasher, the shhhhhhhhh of the heater. Noises I filter out, but which put pressure on all the nerve points nonetheless. Going outside, everything is different. Without walls around me, my soul reaches out to touch the expanding universe as it whispers, and stretches…and breathes.
Where does your soul find rest?