Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is Noise Killing our Relationships?

I've come to realize we live in a noisy world. When I actually listen, I hear the constant flow of traffic interlaced with sirens and an occasional speeder with revving engine and screeching tires. I also hear rumblings of distant trains, planes flying overhead, and lawn mowers. I hear the noise of concrete being both torn out and concrete being poured as streets are repaired. There's the sounds of a neighbor blasting two kinds of music at the same time with windows wide open--music that rattles windows and vibrates walls and causes hearts to thump. There is also the fun sounds of dogs playing, birds chirping, school bells ringing, and kids playing. There is other kinds of noise. I don't mean noise in the normal sense, I mean constant stimuli through TV, radio, social media, internet, video games, and printers running, computers humming, and telephones that clang, ding, and sing their various notifications.

Ironically, I've realized I have felt a bit disconnected from both God and from people. At first I dismissed this feeling of disconnection, after all don't I live in one of the most connected societies of all times? All I have to do is pick up a tablet, look at Facebook, read emails, or text and I am instantly connected. But, I am reminded that only 7 percent of what we comprehend in communication is through spoken words, the other 97% comes through body language, facial expressions, and the tone and inflections of voices. While I enjoy reading the words of encouraging friends, I realize that at times it is more satisfying to chat face-to-face, sharing at a heart level, laughing until the belly hurts, and crying until the tears are spent.

I've also get lost in reading negative comments, hateful posts, inflammatory accusations over social issues and elections, finding myself in a world of frustration, anger, hurt, or anxiety over words written by people I don't even know. At times I may need to be jolted out of complacency and comfort, but to be honest there are times I've spent so much time and emotional energy on social media that when my husband comes home or my kids stop by, I am too exhausted to stay present, to actively listen, to engage in conversation, or to encourage them.

I need to put some balance back in my life. I love social media and its pictures of friends and families near and far. I love the precious words posted by loved ones that gives me insight into how they think, feel, and dream. However, I need to guard against obsessively checking social media and allow ample time for eye-to-eye contact with the humans standing in front of me. I need to guard my heart against the hateful rambling of people hiding behind anonymity, choosing not to read the posts of those who rage when others own different opinions and perspectives on life, politics, and religion. I also want to guard my heart when other people's passions turn into a defensive posture looking for a fight, spewing harsh accusations and hate speech, encourage violence, or try to hold me responsible for the sins of others. I've realized the number of contradictory posts also create unneeded anxiety for this heart that desires to know truth.

Face-to-face interactions are beneficial because as we gaze into the eyes of another we can't forget they are a person with feelings and a complex intellect instead of seeing them only through a single post with which we may or may not agree. Face-to-face allows us to express concern, empathy, and care through body language and to see those same things in the eyes of another. That is where the connections of the heart--the connections that can satisfy this deep soul thirst with which we were born.

Sensory overload has also impacted my relationship with God. When I had five little kids in the home, I got up early when the house was quiet and had my coffee with God. I would read His Word, and then walk as I listened to praise music. On my walk I would pray about what I had read and share the deepest things of my heart with God and ask Him questions and sometimes just listen for His voice in my heart. I remember that time period as one in which I was very connected to God and growing in both knowledge of Him and understanding of His grace. The desire of my heart at that time was to learn to love well, to overcome the judgments I had used as self protection, and to be a giver of lavish grace.

Last week a conference speaker referenced 1 Kings 19, which is the story of Elijah, the prophet who was in his own words, "...jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away."  Elijah was suffering from the depression of let down that sometimes comes upon people fighting great spiritual battles. He longed for Israel to come back to the LORD and he is fearing His life because Israel is on a sinful path and killing God's prophets.

In the middle of Elijah's messy feelings, God instructed him to go and stand on the mountain before Him. The LORD passed by, "and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper." When Elijah heard the whisper he covered his face, because he recognized it as the voice of the LORD.

I realize I don't often allow myself to sit quietly to hear His whispering voice. It is drowned out by the constant "noise" around me. There were times I put on noise to keep the negative, fearful thoughts at bay. But the way to intimacy and closeness was to sit quietly and let the thoughts surface--yes, the thoughts so sinful I was ashamed, the thoughts seeped in unbelief that I don't want to admit were there, the thoughts selfish, unloving, and unbecoming a woman of God that caused me to cringe when they bubbled up. But it was that uncomfortable bubbling that allowed me to acknowledge and confessed them, which in turn shattered the barrier of pretense that stood between me and the God I wanted to know. Dissolving pretense melted the shame of not being who I wanted to be, allowing me to bask in a love steeped with grace.

Our relationship with God, like any other relationship, is nurtured through quiet moments of transparent sharing, confession, adoration, and a willingness to just sit and listen with one's heart. If we aren't careful, the ''noise" will kill even the desire to relate in person, leaving us sorely dissatisfied with what the media gives. Is the noise and constant stimulation impacting your relationships as it is mine?

I am committed to bringing more balance to my life so the "noise" can't drown out the still small voice of the LORD--the very voice that I long most to hear. Oh, how I long to be to the place that when I let my mind wander in the quiet, it consistently finds its way to God.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!