Why is that I have to learn things over and over again? I cannot just learn them the first time and move onto the next lesson. So it is with learning again and again that I must take time to be silent, to meditate, and to reflect.
One of the most striking aspects of United States’ culture that was the hardest to assimilate to when I came back from South America was the inexorable worth of busyness. To not be busy is to be lazy and I have taken this as a principle that though I might not believe I definitely have been practicing. This “busyness” has created an incredible amount of anxiety in me. These past couple of weeks I have had a twitch in my left eye. Weird and disturbing. Now, I realize that much transition has been and is taking place (my wife is pregnant with twin girls, I am gaining more work hours by the week, the constant pressure of doing well in school, and the responsibility of leading a small group of believers in our Church), but I had started to become overwhelmed with anxiety and despair.
Much of my despair seemed to come from my inability to hear from God. It wasn’t that I wasn’t reading the Word or praying. I was doing those things, but reading was becoming another activity and my prayer time was made up mostly of talking and not listening. Yesterday, I read a wonderful essay by C.S. Lewis called the Seeing Eye, which was most convicting. What caught me was this statement:
How, then, it may be asked, can we either reach or avoid [God]?
The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.
One of my tendencies to deal with stress is to drown out my circumstances with noise. This noise usually takes the shape of actual music being played in the background while I do work or school work (this even includes sermons), reading news articles or sports articles (nothing that is edifying or deep on any level), and filling all my time with work, school, or people. To be silent is to actually deal with something going on deeper within my soul so I avoid any type of silence. I don’t think this is absolutely intentional, but what happens is that I surround myself with noise long enough, letting all these voices and influences feed into my stress and anxiety, until I finally wake up and I realize that my soul is below the slough of despond and I have no idea how it got there.
One thing that has been most convicting has been that I have been drowning out the voice of the LORD. I am not sure if I did this intentionally or unintentionally, but it was done through an excess of surrounding myself with the voices of everyone and everything besides God. At the heart of the whole matter, I am not content to sit in silence. I want God to speak to me but I am not humble or disciplined enough to slow down and listen. Silence means that I must actually deal with myself and with God. Our culture in the States today is the best at distractions. Silence is almost destroyed. The practice of meditating and fasting is almost eliminated.
All this to say that I am tired of trying to drink from a broken cistern. I am tired of not hearing the voice of God. I want to see the beautiful powerful work of God but I am not prepared to actually see it. I want to see God but because of all the voices around me I don’t know what to look for. I am finding more and more that to be Christian is to be something that has to be anti-cultural when it comes to one’s relationship with the LORD. I don’t think contextualization happens vertically.
In a society that has created the most distractions even within the Church, silence might be the most difficult of things. But it might be the best of things to hear the voice of God.