As we examined last week, we’re often slaves to our own agendas without even realizing it. We can become so paralyzed by self-analysis and self-inflicted hurry that we forget how to simply be obedient in the things God’s already called us to—and to realize that is all God asks of us.
And as last week’s assignment suggested—and you’re doing it, right?—we’re going to spend much of this week practicing the discipline of silence, and in a variety of venues. Because there’s a variety of venues where we need to begin practicing it. We need to be prepared for what God truly wants us to be doing, in every part of our lives.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:1–5).
Our ears are itchy, and arguably at a level never before seen in history. As a society, and on a personal level, we’re addicted to news media, social media, sports, games, music, movies… anything that will get our adrenalin flowing and make us feel more alive. If we’re being honest, this is also a testimony about the state of our real lives. We clearly want to be distracted from other things, from responsibilities, from the grind of work, from the pain of dealing with other people. Just as clearly, we’re looking to derive our (self-)satisfaction from something other than God. And once we become distracted from God, it becomes impossible to obey him in the moment.
Again, I say all this as a fellow sinner who’s increasingly shocked by his own shortcomings and hypocrisy. Most of us love having at least an aura of drama in our lives—especially if that drama is more vicarious than personal (although some of us love the personal drama as well). When I first wrote this, a 7,500-acre forest fire was raging about fifteen miles northwest of here; in fact, we could both see and smell it from here. (Fortunately, it’s in a national forest area and no homes were destroyed.) Yet, there’s some part of me that wanted to see those numbers get even bigger, even while the logical part of my brain reminds me that by doing so I’m assenting to the destruction of God’s creation (which I love hiking in, for that matter). You’ve likely felt that kind of rush (and conflict), too.
And as a native New Jerseyan, don’t think I haven’t pulled out our proximity to/experience of 9/11 on occasion to impress my fellow Coloradoans who’ve only heard about it from afar. I say to this my shame, but also again because I’m pretty sure it’s a universal experience. Somehow, for some perverse reason, simply being in the vicinity of a big event makes us—strike that; makes me—feeler bigger, too.
That’s the dirty little secret—let’s go ahead and say it: the satanic lie—behind much of our obsession with instant information, and with much of our busyness: It offers an instant substitute to our God-given desire to become a part of something bigger than ourselves. It gives us the chance to lose ourselves in something—other than God. We’re not willing to wait for God to do his work in his time, and so we turn elsewhere. And we are the lesser for it.
By laying down in silence, we turn back to God. And remember: Turn back means repent. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23). We must give ourselves the chance to hear God’s voice, and to experience his new compassions, because he’s been offering them all along.
Let’s set aside our distractions—and our egos that have become so deftly intertwined with them—and give God our full attention. The daily surprises that come by walking in the Spirit will beat anything we can try to come up with on our own.
Lay It Down Today
Let’s literally “bring it home” today. Sometimes in the next twenty-four hours, set aside one hour to not only be silent but completely media-free. No Web, no radio, no TV, no reading, no nothin’. Within those parameters, how you use the time is completely up to you. Take a long walk, or lay in bed and do absolutely nothing, but do it silently yet mindfully before God. Unplug from the world and plug into God’s presence.
It might be uncomfortable at first—and don’t be surprised if all sorts of thoughts start flying around—but remain intentional toward God. Give those distractions the chance to die down. You might actually enjoy it. You’ll certainly have a deeper sense of how constantly distracted you are from God—and what those distractions are. If you enjoy this activity, consider expanding your time to a half-day or even an entire day sometime in the future.