There is a lot of talk about silence today. And solitude. And a tech-free, near-to-nature, God-voice-focused, Jesus-filled, near-hippy existence that all of us read about on our smartphones while hunched over our desks in our cubicles as we simultaneously slam our lunches and catch up on Facebook activity.
And I write that kind of stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for some solitude in the woods with just me, my Bible, and a journal. I would love to be a monk.
But you know what? I think it’s about time we gave a shout-out to shout-outs. And no, not the electronic social media-based kind of shout out. I mean, to SHOUTING. As in, NOISE.
Because frankly, that is where most of us live. I mean, hey, if you can find yourself a lonely walk on a beach paradise in Maui, more power to you. But for me, I live in the world of I KIND OF THOUGHT OUR GROCERY BILL WAS A LITTLE HIGH THIS MONTH WHAT DO YOU THINK, BABE? at the dinner table while a toddler screams bloody murder because he wants to hold a pomegranate and hasn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in three days because of THOSE MOLARS COMING IN!
Molars. I will destroy you.
But toddlers or not, noise really is everywhere. Our email chimes (“chimes” is really too friendly of a word for it, don’t you think?). Our silenced smartphones vibrate (for the record, we can all HEAR your phone vibrating okay people…I’m just sayin’). Our headphones pump music and podcasts into our brains (Thank God ear drum replacement will be dirt cheap by the time millennials hit fifty. Wait. It won’t be cheap? WHAT?!). Cars. Airplanes. Vibrating cell phones!!!
Noise is where we live.
So let’s embrace it.
Here are a few ways to do so:
1. Noisy environments are where we are most emotionally expressive.
Here in Iowa, we are a pretty stoic bunch. We may not be the “Frozen Chosen” of Minnesota but, but we aren’t far from it. Even in church, singing and praising the one who redeemed us and gives us life, we sometimes have trouble really expressing our emotions outwardly.
But in the right noisy environments, Iowan’s come alive. Football games. Kids sporting events. Country music concerts. Football games.
Okay…maybe the main noisy environment in Iowa is Football games. But STILL, people get INTO THAT STUFF man. Wow. Sometimes I am tempted to insert a, “You know it’s just a game right?” But I fear for my life. So I withhold.
Anyhow, moving on.
2. Noisy environments are where people are.
Solitude is great. But it is…well…lonely. By definition. And as it turns out, God loves people. And he calls us to love people. So if we truly want to obey God, we can’t spend all of our lives yearning for solitude. We need to go where the people are. We need to rub shoulders with our co-workers, neighbors, and friends. We need to step out of our comfort zone and embrace the uncontrollable chaos of a given moment because we can know that the image of God is bursting forth through the people all around us.
3. Noisy environments are where conversations are had.
Conversations in noisy places are difficult. You have to yell over the background noise. Your voice and ears become strained.
But the truth is, many of the best spiritual conversations I’ve had have been in noisy places. At a wedding reception. In a dining room while children screamed in the background. At the bar while we watched a football game (I swear I only went for the socializing).
In these natural life rhythms, conversation happens. People open up.
It is precisely here that we cannot afford to be out of tune with God. May we never equate a lack of silence with a lack of work on God’s part.
And this leads to the next point.
4. Noisy environments are where God is.
We can sit in dust and ashes and lament the loss of our pastoral roots. We can shake our fists at the sky every time we see a teen with their ear buds firmly in place, apparently dead to the world around them. But the fact of the matter is, noise isn’t going anywhere. The age of the smartphone and a high-tech lifestyle is just beginning, not coming to its end.
And guess what? God is in the noise, too.
Maybe instead of being angry with that “distracted” teen, we should seek to be the voice being pumped into her ears. Instead of shying away from the world of movement and incessant chiming, we need to learn how to hear God in the midst of it.
After all, He is here because He is everywhere. Noise does not limit God. It does not remove his ability to communicate.
So the next time you find yourself in the midst of noise, embrace it. Seek God there, just as much as you would in the lonely woods of the wilderness.
Because if we can’t find God in the noise, then pretty soon, we may have trouble finding him anywhere at all.