Strategy for a Noisy World
One day last week, I was on the phone waiting to be connected, and the audio space was being filled with a combination of jazzy music with lots of percussion, alternating with announcements of possibilities for other appointments I might make. It was all very annoying. Having nothing else to do while I waited, I found myself wondering why there seemingly has to be so much noise in my world.
Ads, announcements, opinions, urgent pronouncements, all come at increasing decibels, urging us to take action, to buy and sell, to see and do. So much discourse is in the form of argument. Not so much argument asking for a response, just argument. Loud argument. Lots of noise saturates the air.
My irritation at the multi-media assault on my ears is a good sign that I need to take a pause. I, after all, am the one allowing all that noise into my world.
Jesus faced a lot of noise too. Luke the gospel writer remembered that when word got out that Jesus was teaching and healing, “great multitudes gathered to hear and be healed of their infirmities” (Luke 5.15). We can imagine the clamor that assaulted the ears of Jesus everywhere he went. All the gospel writers tell us how Jesus handled this by occasionally withdrawing to a quiet place to be with God in order to keep focused; not to be drawn in to the anxiety and alarm of those around him.
Probably the best known imperative to be quiet is that in Psalm 46.10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is a part of one of the best known psalms that begins with the comforting words: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” The psalmist goes on to remind us of all the cacophony of life outside of the refuge that God offers. Then we are reminded of the anger of God who has brought desolation to the earth and makes wars to cease and who “breaks the bow and shatters the spear and burns the chariots.” All before the psalmist gets to the verse that is so well known “Be still and know that I am God.”
The Hebrew word translated as “be still” is rapha a strong verb meaning, much more like “Stop what you are doing!” that is, stop fighting, stop making war, and know that I am God.”
It is not a gentle suggestion, but rather a command to remember that it is God who is to be exalted on the earth. Something like the words “Be Still” that Jesus uses to order the stormy sea to be calmed when the disciples are afraid. God is the ruler of nature and of the activities of humankind. So, stop what you are doing and pay attention to God. Stillness and silence are needed so that we can rise above the noise and remember that it is God who is in control.
A lovely poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda says, (in translation):
Now we will count to twelve
And we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth
Let’s not speak in any language,
Let’s stop for one second,
And not move our arms so much.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
I wish for all of you the peace that passes all understanding.
Pastor Nancy Becker