The fire alarm sounded, horns blaring and strobes flashing. Thankfully I was in the ladies room when they tripped it, else I might have regretted that big mug of caramel colored yumminess I drank on my commute.
It was an alarm test – not even an evacuation drill, but it droned on forever. Just keep working. My brain knew it wasn’t an emergency, but in the instant that it sounded, the rest of my body reacted with adrenalin. There is no danger of anyone remaining unaware of an alarm in that building.
As I headed back to my seat, I noticed that everyone was at their desks, trying their best to endure the noise, going on with their work. Protect your hearing. Focus on the task at hand. It’s just noise – today it requires no response. Another day, we will quickly and efficiently exit the building and gather together, accounting for one another…but not today. Today we are aware of the alarm, we consider a response, and based on reliable information we stay the course.
Words. Everywhere. I’m being bombarded and I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to work through and assimilate them but the assault never stops. They come at me so quickly I lose the current thought to the next and what in the world was I thinking ten minutes ago? I read them everywhere, words spoken by people I admire or at least respect. In the name of my Jesus there are at least two schools of thought on the everything. I see merit and truth in both, and then wonder what is wrong with a grown woman (me) who can’t take a stand?
I find myself responding to words just like I did to that siren. I’m in the middle of something perfectly normal, when they come loud and insistent, startling and alarming me:
“Surgery is scheduled.”
“More tests are required.”
“Terrorists attacked Paris.”
“The teenager is in a funk.”
“You are clenching your jaw in your sleep.”
“Still no answer on that job interview.”
“The diagnosis is in – it’s cancer.”
“The deadline was just moved up.”
“Your application has been denied.”
Sometimes words are like that alarm test – loud and persistent, but no response is required other than coping with the noise. Other times, a response is not only warranted; it’s beneficial. Wisdom is knowing the difference.
Many days I drive the forty minute commute from the office to home in silence. It’s a chance to be still; it gives me time to think about and sort through the words; some that I’ve spoken and others that I’ve heard. It’s in those quiet moments that clarity and conviction come; I decide whether to respond, react or, in the words of a famous princess, let it go.
The noise has reached a crescendo recently, though. I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are zealous for the Lord. They are passionate and they are convinced that they know exactly what Jesus would do. They are often loud. And I love them. I just wish some days that they would stop talking.
Where are you in all of this, Jesus? In my earnest quest for quiet and calm, I welcome these words:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord,
for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(I Kings 19:11-13)
The law. It is a voice of terrible words – harsh and accusing, like earthquakes and fire to break the rocky hearts of sinful men. The Gospel is a still small voice, more like gentle whispering than roaring. Soft, easy and lyrical, it is a gentle voice of love, grace and mercy.
That is the voice I long to hear. That voice tells me to find a bench and sit with a widow or an overwhelmed mom. It’s the same voice that tells me to say no to the guy who approaches me for money in the parking lot but urges me to buy peanuts for the homeless man dozing against the wall by the produce market. It’s the voice that reassures me when I’m lonely. That whisper reminds me in the wee hours of the morning that his eye is on the sparrow, and that he records every tear.
So, as I enter this week of Thanksgiving, I’m looking for a quiet place. 2015 has not been the best year for me; perhaps you’ve had your share of trials as well. Even so, when I find a quiet spot to listen and reflect, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for blessings that came as surely as the hard places, sometimes in the middle of those hard places. The only way this wounded heart can truly come to a place of gratitude is to look past the shaking earth, the heat of the flames and the ferocity of the wind to hear the still small voice of the One who is delighted with me, renewing me in his love. And there, in that place, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.