Choose the Quiet

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

…aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…

– 1 Thessalonians 4:11b (NKJV)

In 2002, Gary Jules covered the Tears for Fears song “Mad World” for the movie Donnie Darko. While I have never seen the film, the soft piano notes at the beginning of the song are instantly recognizable. I know that a quiet, breathy male voice will soon tell his story, a story that doesn’t quite make sense. Of course, with a title like “Mad World,” it’s probably not supposed to make sense.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad…

Repeated throughout the song, these phrases could be my anthem. I find it funny, as in odd, how the art of reasonable conversation has been lost. I find it sad, too. I find it odd how impossible it is to turn off the noise. Sad, too. Blame social media, blame news organizations, blame whoever and whatever you’d like to blame, but there is no denying the tension that hangs in the air, thick and oppressive.

No denying that our world is, perhaps, a mad place.

And so my verse for the year.

We have to live here. No jumping on a ship bound for Mars. Nothing would be different on Mars, anyway, because we’d be there. The problem is us. We’re stuck with that fact, stuck with each other. Yet we don’t have to live as though this is all there is. We don’t have to maneuver for the best position, the greatest influence, the largest pile of stuff. We don’t have to scrabble and scrape and step on each other. There is a different way.

That way is hēsycházō.

…to keep quiet; to rest, cease from labor; to lead a quiet life, said of those who are not running hither and thither, but stay at home and mind their business; to be silent, i.e. to say nothing, hold one’s peace…

Old / New Testament Greek Lexical Dictionary

Did you know that you can rest? Did you know that it’s okay to have empty spaces on your calendar? Did you know that you don’t have to speak to or about every single issue? Did you know that it’s okay to unplug and unwind?

Did you know that quietness is a command?

God knows more and better than we ever can. How easily we forget this truth. Our minds can’t handle the 24-hours news cycle, which seems to have shrunk to 8 or less. Our hearts can’t handle the constant stress that comparison brings, an inevitability in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Our spirits can’t handle screaming and straining every moment of every day. We are finite. Fragile. Made from the dust that I am constantly working to banish from my home.

Yes, it is true that burying our heads in the sands of denial and ignorance does no good. We are commanded to be quiet, but we are also commanded to be watchful (see Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13). Knowing what is going on is necessary. Making time to engage with the issues of the day is important. This life of faith does not equal mush-brain and hiding. We have to think. We have to learn. We have to grow.

What we don’t have to do is deny our fragility.

Before God made people, He made a garden. He stepped back and looked at everything – mighty trees, dainty flowers, cascading waterfalls. He heard the snuffling of furry creatures and the fluttering of bird’s wings. He paused, took it all in and declared it good.

If God, who has no need for rest, took the time to enjoy the simple beauty of a garden, then who are we to think we can cope with incessant noise?

There is business. There is work. Bills have to be paid and food has to be on the table. Homes must be cared for and jobs must be done well.

There is also the silence of snow falling at midnight. The rise and fall of a dog’s chest as he naps. The feel of a clean pair of socks.

We need space. We need to turn off the computer and tune out the ping of smartphone notifications. For an hour or two. Just long enough to sip coffee and gaze out the front window. Just long enough to gain control over raging emotions and lashing tongues. Just long enough to keep from gossiping. Just long enough to keep from committing to too many things out of guilt or fear. Just long enough to remember that God carries the weight of the world, not us.

We need to choose the quiet.

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What Do They Want?

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Gentle Reader,

As Chris and I were making dinner this evening, we discussed the day. This is one of my favorite things about our relationship; chopping, stirring, simmering and tasting go hand-in-hand with gentle, unwinding conversation. The topics flip back and forth. Stories get added to. Worries are aired. The pressing concerns of the previous 8 hours fade away.

After relating one particularly difficult situation to him, I found myself saying, “I don’t know what anyone wants from me.”

One little sentence can reveal so much about the state of the heart.

A large part of the anxiety I struggle with comes from constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others, whether stated or dreamed up by myself.

I don’t buy into the line of thinking that says we should have no expectations of each other. For example, my boss should expect me to be at work on time and my husband should expect me to be his best friend and cheerleader. Those are good, right things. Problems arise when others have standards that are not good and right. You will always be there exactly when I need you and you will be in the mood/frame of mind that I want you to be in. Your problems will never take precedence over mine. You will never give me a funny look. You will always be cheerful. You will never complain and you won’t ask for help. You will…

The truth is, I do know what is wanted, but that want is impossible. I know because I’ve had that want, placed that expectation on others before. I can’t be more Jesus than Jesus. Bless His name, He shapes me every day. Little rough edges are smoothed away by His dear hands. But He’s the one who’s always “on,” not me. He’s the one who’s the best possible friend anyone could ask for. He’s the one who has all the answers. He’s the one who has the ability to give, give, give and give some more. He never gets tired, never gets crabby. He – alone – is perfect.

What people want, what they need, is Jesus. If they know Him, then they need more of Him.

That’s where the mind of life and peace is.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

My journey to faith. (15)

A Theme for Spring

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Gentle Reader,

The level of anxiety with which I live on a day-to-day basis has been bubbling toward the more-than-annoying point lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s time to adjust the medication levels. Maybe my diet is off-balance. Maybe there’s something bugging me and I don’t realize it yet. Maybe it’s just me being me.

Anyway, at this juncture I know that it’s not as simple as “just” praying or “just” realizing that I’m safe and that everything is okay. My mom reminded me recently that we all have things to battle, and this ill-defined fear and sense of unease is mine. If I’m not vigilant at guarding what goes into my mind, and therefore my heart, I’m toast. If I don’t take time to process a feeling or a situation, I’m sunk. If I start looking around, hoping to find satisfaction in “stuff,” I’m done.

So, I considered my next verse for this month’s SSMT 2013 carefully, and wound up with this:

To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:6 (NKJV)

Put another way:

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (NIV)

I’m sure that you know this, but allowing the mind to be governed by the Spirit is no easy task. The other day I was freaking out about something (I can’t remember what) and I found myself actually saying, “But, God! You don’t understand!”

Woah.

He did not strike me dead for such a statement, for He knows how deeply human I am. But that got me to pondering. When I go down the road of believing that God can’t or won’t understand, then I’ve taken a wild step off the cliff. I’ve jumped blindly into that pit of death.

I’d rather that not continue to be the pattern of my life, and so this spring I want to focus on what it means to live under the authority of God, and why choosing to do so (it is indeed a choice) leads to peace. To life. There is no safety, no joy, no breathing space to be found in living outside His loving boundaries.

Stepping outside those boundaries is easy, and it’s not always immediately noticeable. How many of us who claim the name “Christian” go through each day trapped by fear, anger, entitlement, the pursuit of power or wealth? At some point we have to acknowledge whatever it is that’s got a hold on us. Then we have to take another step – turning away from it.

A hard task.

But, after all, what did we celebrate yesterday? The Man who achieved victory over the grave! The Man who rose again! The Man who left His Spirit within us! Surely He will enable me to step out of anxiety’s chains, one day at a time.

Surely He will do the same for you, whatever the chains are.

My journey to faith. (15)