As I have grown older, I have been drawn to the country. The seeds were planted long ago when my dad forced me to walk through my grandfather's cotton patch with a hoe in my hand chopping out anything that wasn't a cotton plant. Those seeds were watered as I worked with my grandfather, riding on the tractor and hopping off to pull countless weeds. They took root during the summers of my college career as I returned each summer to work at Banquete Grain Co-Op, staying many nights with my grandparents. I remember getting to grandma and grandpa's after work only to have my grandfather tell me to jump in the truck. We were heading to the cotton patch to see if there were any weeds. I, of course would have to jump out and pull them. But I remember riding in the bed of the truck as the sun set over the coastal plain. I remember the sea breeze blowing through the cotton and rustling the leaves. I can taste the dust kicked up by combines and cotton pickers. They had finished their day's work as we drove around, and I discovered the beauty of fields and wind and wide open spaces. I began reading Louis L'Amour about this time, and his descriptions of the beauty of rural areas coupled with being in such a place touched a place deep within me.
I've spent time in urban areas. Yes, there was a bit of excitement there. It was nice to have all the conveniences minutes down the road. There are countless avenues to keep oneself entertained, and places that are willing to relieve you of your money very quickly. But as I remarked to folks after visiting my sister in Plano, TX, "There was too much concrete; too many people; and too many cars packed into too small a place." And I meant it.
I do not like the rat race. I do not like feeling like I'm rushed. I do not like noise--even the white noise of traffic--at all hours of the day and night. Being in the country allows a person to slow down, to look, and to listen.
As I prepare for a walk-a-thon that will cover 62.5 miles in three days, I have the opportunity to walk around the countryside. For long stretches, the sound of silence surrounds me. It's quiet, and I absolutely love it. Well, I technically can't say that it's totally quiet as the country side has its own symphony of sounds: the wind blowing over the grass and through the trees; cattle calling and chewing their cuds; donkey's braying; horses blowing; bugs buzzing. I can hear a car coming miles before I actually see it. I can hear a train whistle blow knowing the nearest crossing is six or seven miles away. If folks are outside, I can hear them talking to each other, and everyone I meet along the way offers a friendly wave or greeting.
I contrast this with a trip that I took to Houston not too long ago. I was early for my appointment, so I stopped in Memorial Park for a short time. Many folks walked along the walking/jogging path. No one greeted me or anyone else for that matter. Nearly all were absorbed in listening to their MP3 players or talking with a friend who just happened to be with them. The sounds of I-10 drifted over the green belt and drowned out the sounds of the wind and the insects and, of course, the sound of silence. I couldn't stand to be there too long. It was too noisy.
I have found that in the quiet, I have the opportunity to listen--to the sounds of the plants and animals, to the sound of creation, and to the still, small whisper that is the voice of God. He doesn't always speak as I walk, but I have heard Him more in the country because I am less distracted.
I know that God is everywhere. Of this, I have no doubts. But I cringe to think of all the things that we use to drown out His voice. Cars, radios, MP3s, home theaters, televisions, satellite t.v. and radio, electronic gadgets that allow us to watch football games in the middle of forests (can you believe that commercial?). What I wouldn't give at times to chunk my cell phone so that it won't interrupt the sounds of silence. Sounds that are conducive to hearing the Lord when He speaks.
Perhaps one day, I will be called to head into the city once again, but I am hoping that day will come late and end quickly. For I belong where it is quiet. Where life moves slowly. Where I am at peace.