This is the second Sunday in Lent and I wanted to check in regarding my Lent journey. I recommend you read my previous post (Dancing with Darkness) if you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about. As Lent is a season of confession and repentance, I’m challenging everyone to take advantage of the opportunity focus on your soul’s wellbeing. I stated last week that I feel like most of us have “Soul Neuropathy.” We’re become more detached from the people around us and from God. Detachment has become our survival tool of choice in a world that seems to constantly bombard us with stress, pain and negativity. Today I’ve been thinking specifically about what it takes to really do an inventory of our health (soul, emotional, physical, etc).
The one thing that keeps coming to my mind is noise. We live with a lot of mental noise, negative noise, and just “noise” noise. Noise makes me think of chaos, emergency, pain, frantic activity. When we’re surrounded by noise it’s distracting to say the least. Noise is not conducive to introspection. I’ve worked in several settings over the years and many of those places were filled with noise. I’m not talking about needing to turn the radio down or a loud coworker. I’m talking about an environment of frenzy, disorganization, frustration. Looking at my time in these different places it seems like we were always going from one crisis to another. We would no more get one problem settled and other problem would explode. It’s not only work places where I’ve found this. I’ve seen it in churches, families and in other relationships. I’ve also met many people who thrive on the noise. In fact, when things start to get quiet again, these people do things to stir up another crisis.
Being forced to exist in one of those “Code Red” environments for an extended period really disorients me emotionally. I can’t focus on my overall well being when all my energy is being dedicated to putting fires out. So, what am I to do in this Lent season where I’m trying recognize and address the impact that darkness has on my life? Let’s look at Jesus. His life was for sure full of noise. He had the curse of celebrity along with attacks from infamous actors. People flocked to him for teaching and help and there always seemed to be villains who were plotting his demise. Three things I see Jesus do throughout the Bible:
- He connected to God
- He connected to his friends and asked them to pray with him
- He took opportunities to “get away”
To me the natural first step in my Lent strategy is getting away from the noise. I have a really hard time connecting with God or my loved ones when my head is full. Literally getting away is something that is very hard to do very often (although you should try to plan this into your weekly schedule). The idea of Sabbath is a struggle for many Christians. I once heard a minister say that he thought the commandment about observing the Sabbath is probably one of the most often broken commandments. As we move toward having a Sabbath rest day each week, we need to dial back the noise in our lives on the other 6 days. Why? If you’re on noise overload on days 1-6 it’s going to spill over onto your Sabbath. (By the way, your Sabbath doesn’t have to be on Sunday. Job schedules and family events and church activities often make it hard to have a Sabbath on Sunday.)
It feels like I’m listing a bunch of impossible exercises, right? First I want you to have a day of rest and then I want you also turn down the noise an chaos in your day to day. Isn’t that impossible? Well, all I can say is there are often many exercises you attempt that are impossible at the beginning. A trainer doesn’t start you out with a 100 pound weight. You usually start with 10 or 20 pounds and begin to work your way up. With practice that exercise becomes less impossible.
On the path to Sabbath you first need to start turning down the noise in your life. You can’t always mute the noise, but you can dial it back. Just like I said last week, you can’t eliminate the darkness in your world, but you certainly can influence how much it impacts your life. You must identify the noise makers in your life. This shouldn’t be completely hard but don’t overlook the more subtle influences. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, the radio, the computer, you can shut your windows and eventually you’re going to notice that even the refrigerator makes noise. But when the TV is blasting out “Wheel of Fortune” you don’t notice the refrigerator at all. What I’m saying is the more you look the more emotional noise makers you have that take a toll on you. Darkness/pain/negativity seeps into your life from multiple avenues. Begin first looking at the darkness highways. They would be where major influences may attack you. Negative people or Drama Mamas are obvious sources of stress. Music and other types of media can be huge darkness influences. Your mind and the things you dwell on can be a huge highway of negativity. You can’t rid yourself of these things, but you can begin dialing back your exposure. You may need to cut some elements or people out of your life. Toxic people will never make you better and you’re not going to save them from themselves. Toxic people need to take a journey that only they can commit to when they make the conscious decision to. All they do is hurt you. Let them go. If it’s a close family member or friend that you can’t completely cut off, limit your exposure.
I’ve been told by many people throughout my life that they don’t like things being quiet. They don’t like being alone with just their thoughts. They are actually scared of that. I want to share what I’ve learned about that. When everything is quiet it is just you and God. If you’re afraid of that you need to examine your ideas about the Lord. Nothing you do or think will make you more or less lovable to God. He’s crazy in love with you. God’s love isn’t like human love. It’s hard for many to envision because unconditional love isn’t a universally understood concept. God knows all your thoughts and everything you’ve done, and you are still invited to be loved by him. I do completely get your misunderstanding about this and your inability to accept God’s love because you can’t get past yourself. I’ve been there. I’m not there anymore and I don’t want you to be either. If this is too much for you to wrap your head around just pray and ask God to help you. That part of your thinking will begin to get healed. I’m saying this not because I have you figured out, but because I totally know God is able and wants to do this for you. When you start to understand the love God has for you, quiet times of reflection and prayer won’t be scary to you anymore.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;” (1 John 4:18)
God’s love is perfect and there is no need to fear when you connect with Him. Don’t keep yourself busy with the noise in your life or in your mind. Make a place to find peace and rest. Your place for connecting with God may be on the hiking trail, or sitting on a porch reading the Bible, or maybe in a worship service. There are lots of options. We all have different places where we connect best with God. Over time those moments when you connect with God will go from being filled with fearful uncertainty to feeling like a hug from the divine. You can be at peace with quiet.
Wherever you are please know that God loves and accepts you completely. Don’t miss your next opportunity to connect.