Did you know that a drowning person rarely makes a sound nor a splash? Their bodies are generally vertical in the water, their head tilted back, their eyes are vacant and their remaining energy is just focused on breathing in and out and trying to keep their mouth above the water line. There’s usually no splashing about and no signalling for help, just silent bobbing in the water. If you call to them or ask them a question, there’ll be no response.
First responders to accidents are also taught to notice silence. We have to be taught to assess everyone because without training we respond only to the noisy and they are not always the most at risk or in need of our attention. Perhaps it is mothers of toddlers who know it better than most – silence is always worth investigating!
While perhaps this seems a morbid pondering today, I’ve found it an interesting correlation between the noise of friends or people in your world and the state of their hearts and inner workings. When a friend is noisy – even if upset with you noisy – it’s a sign of life. They still care enough to call you on whatever it is that has upset them. A friend gone quiet should sound the alarm bells. No response to messages or calls and no interaction can be a sign of distress rather than drama. A married couple arguing often has more hope of restoration than a couple in silent ambivalence.
I’m not an advocate of the silent treatment, though I am guilty of retreating into that space from time to time. It is a deeply unhelpful space, but not what I’m getting at here. Silent treatment is a warfare tactic, but unable to speak is a different space altogether. It may seem a nuance or semantics, but voices are presence of life. They are proof of life. Just like a drowning person loses their ability to speak, so when metaphorically drowning in life can we also lose our voice.
King David also had times of feeling alone, experiencing the ‘silence of death’ around him. He wrote in Psalm 94:16-19
‘Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.’
Who has been strangely quiet around you lately? What voices are missing in the choir of your life? It’s easy to get busy and not notice, so here’s a little reminder that silence can be deadly. If you read this and know you’re the one that’s gone silent in life, that all your energy is focused on trying to gulp air – please if you can, let your fingers do the speaking if necessary and let a friend know that you are not okay. Silence is actually hard to detect unless your trained to notice it and actively looking for it. That’s why people still drown on crowded beaches and in backyard pools that have other people in there with them.
God is our ever present and only unfailing help, but he also gifts us with imperfect people that can also throw us the flotation device when they see our voiceless bobbing up and down. So, let’s be both vigilant in our watching and listening regarding those around us and let’s also make the effort to let others know when we’re getting into dangerous waters. We all find ourselves at either end of the floatation device at different points in time, so there’s no need for shame, fear or pride. The important thing is that we live to tell the tale!
Make a call. Phone a friend. Listen for the silence of struggle.
Links you can reach out too if you are in the silence of struggle: