Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hearing the Still Voice in a Noisy World

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote:
If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.
And to think he wrote that in the nineteenth century, when the world was not flooded with the cacophony of radio and television and Web streaming; when the telephone did not yet sit on a stand in the hallway, let alone in your pocket or around your wrist; when your home at eventide might have no other sound within it than the crackle of a fire, the clack of knitting needles, and the gentle rustle of a turned page. Even in that comparatively irenic period, Kierkegaard thought the world too noisy for the Gospel message to penetrate the hearts of men.

Such an attitude on the part of the Dane should indicate to us that this challenge is not unique to our own age, for the problem at hand is not simply one of physical noise that would drown out the preacher; it is the problem of our restless hearts distracting themselves from their sinfulness and selfishness through every means of momentary exhilaration and mental occupation available to us. Each time and place has its own distractions, be they steam engines or six-lane highways or Twitter feeds or twenty-four hour cable news or gladiator games or chariot races or booze or drugs or the latest version of the XBox or Playstation. We much prefer these things to examining our hearts, or to lending our ears to those who would encourage us to do so, because they're easier.

We are unlikely to find God in these things because such thrills and agitations are not part of the divine modus operandi. God doesn't speak to us in a voice that echoes across the mountains, for that would overwhelm our wills, bringing us before Him in servile fear instead of filial love. God speaks to us, as He did to Elijah, in the tiny whispering sound, barely audible except to the pure heart who seeks it. God presents Himself, not in the guise of a mighty king enrobed in scarlet and riding atop a war elephant for all to see, but rather as a wandering carpenter who heals the sick and commands them not to tell anyone about it.

This is not to say that the love of God and the Spirit of holiness do not also fill one with energy and enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel message. Certainly they do; we saw that with those very people whom Jesus healed and who could not contained their joy and gratitude and ran through the streets shouting it. But that enthusiasm is a means, not an end. We are not made enthusiastic for the sake of being enthusiastic. That enthusiasm is intended to bring people to that peace the world cannot give.

The world is noisy. Our hearts are noisy. Let's quiet them down and leave some room for God to speak to us. We have such a bad habit of interrupting him.

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