Delicious campfire smoke filled the air and covered my clothes. The air was cool for a summer night, and the inky black country sky stretched as far as I could see. Stars like pinpricks of bright lights winked above. I sat perched on a log surrounding the orange glow, with legs stretched out before me. The flames warmed the cool summer night. I stared into the blaze, listened to the quiet strum of a guitar and the youth leader’s words.
“You are your truest self when it is quiet—in the night before you go to sleep or in the morning as you wake. That is where God will meet you. The place where you are still and quiet.”
I soaked in the words and wondered how that would be possible when I didn’t like the quiet—or the alone.
Years later, I sat curled up in the corner of our living room — legs folded under me in our green paisley chair and warm coffee mug in my hand. In the predawn darkness, a single reading lamp lit the room. The dog snoring, and the pages of my Bible crinkling as I turned them broke the silence.
This peaceful start to my days has become a treasure, a balm to my busy life. The quiet is a welcome reprieve. I have learned to love the stillness.
The change had been gradual. I’d returned home from the thoughtful moment at the campfire and surrounded myself with the noise of teenage life. I fought against being alone by filling my calendar with social events and school and later work. When quiet times tried to settle in, I would turn up the music, turn on the television, or get out of the house.
As a young mom, I worked full time. Peace and quiet were rare. Saturday mornings, when my beloved was out of the house, and my growing boy was napping; I’d craft. I noticed something about those moments. Instead of wanting to fill them, I relished in them. My mind relaxed in the peaceful silence and drifted into quiet worship.
Now, my growing boy is taller than me. Our weekly schedule is still full. There are no more nighttime feedings or naptimes or toddler playdates. Now, there are sports and school and friends. I no longer fight the idea of being alone in the quiet. Instead, I look for ways to fit it in.
Peace. Margins. This idea of “un-rushing”—purposefully slowing down, so I’m not barreling through life at break-neck-speed—beckons my heart. Over and over, it calls me to still my body, so in turn, I can allow God’s mercies to still my soul. I want, as the Psalmist did, to “seek peace and pursue it.”
When I notice my calendar is too full, feel my shoulders begin to rise, my breath begin to shallow and my mind to race, I consider one of these ways to turn toward the quiet:
I take a quiet walk outside. I leave the earbuds out and focus on just my steps and my thoughts. My mind and heart revel in the quiet time, my body in the activity.
I visit with a friend. Eye contact, proximity, and voices impact how close we feel to someone. Instead of scrolling social media, I try to set up a time to meet up with a friend—in person.
I consciously slow my body. I focus on my senses, noticing the things I see, hear, smell. Inhale. Exhale. I pull my shoulders down, straighten my back, and lift my head. I smile. By taking control of my body in this way, I can reverse my stress response.
I pause before moving to the next thing. I take a moment, during errands or before I get out of my car at work or home, to take a deep breath. For just a moment, I relish the quiet and add breathing space to the rush of life.
I praise God for the things He’s done. In Luke 17, Jesus tells the story of ten men suffering from leprosy. When they asked for mercy, Jesus sent them to the temple, and along the way, they were healed. But when one of the men saw he was healed, he doubled back, fell facedown, and thanked Jesus for the healing. I want to be that one—the one who thanks the Lord for what He’s done and what He’s doing.
The memory of that night at the campfire still rises often as I fall asleep or as I wake. Now, I smile at the recollection of the young girl who turned up the volume to drown out the silence. I’ve since learned to love the quiet, and I welcome its stillness. I treasure the time to meet God here.
Bethany McMillon is a coffee, football, and ice cream lover from the Dallas, TX area. She adores her number-loving accountant husband and her growing too fast, obsessed with science and history boy. She daily strives to notice God’s mercy and grace in the small moments of life. Bethany loves her work as a school librarian for tiny and medium-size learners, which aligns perfectly with the joy she finds in reading and writing. Perhaps most importantly, Bethany is passionate about building deeper relationships with both Jesus and those that she loves. Her spirit is most settled after she has connected with a friend over coffee or sweet tea on the patio, or even enjoyed a side by sidewalk through a local neighborhood. She hopes to encourage women to find and hold onto that kind of feeling within busy and quick-paced lives. Bethany is a member of the Hope*Writers community and writes weekly on her website. She can be found on Instagram and Facebook.