Confessions of a Rookie Birder

The Gray Catbird sings only one phrase at a time. (photo by Craig Taylor)

I saw this statement on Facebook this week: “Once you have matured, you realize silence is more important than proving a point.” No authorship was identified, and I felt like the statement was aimed straight at me.

The Brown Thrasher is Georgia’s state bird and sings two repetitions of each phrase. (photo by Craig Taylor)

I have to confess that I’ve never liked silence. In the car, I want music, or a book on CD, or even talk radio to be on. I walk into the house and immediately grab the remote to get the TV going. I work with the TV or the radio going in the background. I even wrote my dissertation to Disney animated films playing behind me. There was something encouraging in the music of Mulan and Roger Miller singing, “Oo de-lally, oo de-lally, golly what a day,” from Robin Hood.

During the past months of self-isolation, I’ve begun to appreciate silence. Maybe it’s because we’ve spent so much more time at home than usual, but quiet no longer seems to be a vacuum of silence. Rather, silence seems to have become pregnant with opportunity––to hear God’s voice, to listen to the song and calls of the birds, and to listen to voices of others that I don’t always hear.

The Northern Mocking Bird sings three repetitions of a phrase at a time. (photo by Craig Taylor)

I think it’s necessary to get rid of the noise that surrounds our lives to be able to hear the things we haven’t been listening for. When I taught in seminary, I was constantly being addressed by students who needed my help. My daughter went to campus with me some, and she started addressing me as “Margie.” When I asked why she told me that I couldn’t hear her say “Mom” in the sea of voices saying “Margie.”

I’m listening more now. I’m trying not to pay attention to the things that have been so loud in my life. I’m trying to listen to the voices that have been drowned out by the noise of my life––things like God’s voice; the sounds of birds; and, especially, the cries from those who are begging for help.

I pray that I’ve matured enough in my walk with the Lord to listen more and talk less.

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