Have you ever just sat in silence? I mean, actual silence. It’s difficult for me to pull it off, sitting in silence. My mind is always busy. Looking for input. Running a million miles an hour. Even when I should have nothing happening between my ears - there’s a podcast, or a new song, or an old favorite to listen to.
Falling asleep in front of the TV isn’t just a pass time. It’s the God given right of every middle-aged man (yes – I plan to live to be 120). The remote, a bowl of ice cream, and some meaningless show on the tube. Ok. Maybe not God given, but I digress. My point is that I don’t really spend enough time sitting in silence. I mean, if I don’t have some distraction surrounding me, I might be left alone with my thoughts. Can’t have that.
Music is a huge part of my life. Always has been. That’s why I always have music on (probably way too loud) when I’m on the bike. I recall several years ago while riding down to Mesa, AZ for a Black Sheep gathering, I listened to my entire collection of RUSH in chronological order from their first studio album (1974) to their last studio album (2012). When that playlist was exhausted, I listened to all their live albums in chronological order. That got me from Bothell, WA to about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix before I had to find something else to listen to. What a Rush! I honestly hadn’t ridden without music since the transmission in my old Dyna blew up back in 2011.
Until the trip to Sturgis this year. My friend David and I had been planning our ride to Sturgis for three months or so. Routes, things we wanted to see, setting up accommodations – all the things you do to plan a big ride like this. A month or so before the trip, I got a call from David. He asked me if my helmet had headphones in it. I knew where this was going. I told him my full-face helmet does, but I’d only be wearing that helmet in bad weather. He told me that he doesn’t like listening to anything while riding – not his music, not my music. Not even Pink Floyd (his favorite band). He explained that for him, riding was a chance to think, meditate, and pray. He said, “So if you do listen to music on the ride and you look in your rearview mirror and I’m a mile behind you – you’ll know why”. David wisely wanted to bring this up well in advance, just so there weren’t any surprises on the road.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to think. No music for nearly two weeks? How is that even possible? But then I recalled the scripture that instructs us to put others before ourselves. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV)
That cleared it up for me! It’s not that big of a deal. I certainly didn’t want to ruin the trip for David. And to be honest, there is a lot on my mind these days, and I knew I could really benefit from taking David’s suggestion to think, meditate, and pray on this ride. We met up in Moscow Idaho, where we got to take my youngest daughter Sarah to breakfast (best day of the trip to be honest). So, for the remainder of the trip (even after I dropped David off in Payette, ID) the stereo was turned off. You know what happened? I thought through some big stuff and came to some important conclusions. I meditated on the promises from God. I prayed. And I listened. I listened to the voice of God. Was it like Moses at the Burning Bush? Uh… no. But it was exactly what I needed. In the Book of Psalms, the Bible tells us to “Be still and know that I am God…”. Psalm 46:10 (NIV). It’s all about faith.
You may recall the story of Job (likely the oldest book of the Bible, by the way). Job’s entire life is turned upside down and he loses everything. The devil was trying to get him to turn away from God. Even Job’s wife told him to “Curse God and die”. But instead, Job worshipped God. And he entered a lengthy dialogue with Him. He had listened to three close friends, but all they did was accuse him of sin. So, when Job was finally ready to hear what God had to say, here is what God told him:
“Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want to vindicate you. But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” Job 33: 31-33 (NIV)
For me, the silence was rewarded. It was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever been on. God could knock me off my bike to get my attention – like he did with the Apostle Paul. But instead, He speaks to me with that “Still, small voice”, as Elijah discovered (but that’s another story for another time). I didn’t turn on the stereo on the bike until the day after I returned home. And when I did, it was cathartic for me. Made me a bit emotional. Does that mean that my days of listening to music on the bike are over? Not a chance. But I know that when I do shut down all the noise and sit in silence, I’m putting myself in position to hear from God. I’m pretty sure His favorite band is RUSH.