Friday, August 30, 2013

Peace amongst the noise

1 Kings 6:1, 7 (NIV)

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord. In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.
It’s not explicitly stated, but the implication here seems to be the decision to keep iron tools from the temple worksite had something to do with the sacred nature of the work, that the noticeable din of human labor would somehow be an unwelcome contradiction with the sanctity of what was intended as God’s house in the holy city.

Anyone with brief exposure to a construction site can understand the noise potential. Even without modern power tools, hammers and other still common iron tools raise plenty of ruckus. I’m reminded of my high school summers on youth group mission trips, pounding shingles in the hot North Carolina sun (as well as the hot Colorado sun and the hot Arkansas sun… I got sent on the roof a lot) and how all day long there was constant noise, until such time when we’d all set down our tools for a meal or a look at the day’s devotional material.

Noise generally makes me think of my children. And with good reason. Tonight, after the world’s loudest shower and ten minutes of simply running form one end of the living room to the other, all three of them treated us to a techno dance party in the playroom (complete with a spinning, multi-colored light ball) because how else does one get ready for bed after the first full week of school?

But there’s so much more noise in my life. The air conditioner running almost nonstop in a valiant attempt to keep my very pregnant wife as comfortable as possible. The laundry machine running through cycles in the basement. The lawnmower our meticulous neighbor fires up whenever the grass remotely exceeds optimal height. The dog who goes completely bonkers when a delivery truck pulls in my parents’ driveway. The pounding rain I drove through on my way home tonight. The earbuds I constantly pop in whenever I’ve alone because I have 17 hours of podcasts I simply must hear.

Noise is everywhere, and there’s plenty of times I choose noise over silence. I don’t have time for quiet, I think. Even when one specific sound becomes too much to tolerate, I seek retreat in the comfort of a different sound, one of my choosing. Somehow the remedy for “SpongeBob SquarePants” is “Jeopardy!” Perhaps counter-intuitive, but it seems to work for me, for now.

I don’t think silence is necessary to hear God. Often my deepest connections are felt when music is involved. Generally during a formal worship service, but not exclusively. It would be rare for me to choose contemplative silence over reverent song. Yet I can’t deny the opportunity for powerful moments in the midst of genuine calm.

Maybe I really do need more silence in my life and I’m just telling myself I don’t because getting there these days requires such effort. Maybe the 90 seconds or so it takes to follow Jack to the bust stop each morning is just the right amount of time and I shouldn’t go overboard seeking more solitude. Maybe solitude and silence don’t need to be mutually inclusive. Maybe this daily typing ritual does more for my soul and spirit than I’m inclined to assume.

Regardless which, if any, of those possibilities are most true, I am very happy to say we do not live near a construction site. Iron tools or not, I’m pretty happy to look out the front window and see a generally quiet cul-de-sac. It’s nothing any adventurous world traveler would dream of ranking on a must-see list, but it soothes me to no end. Home is a sanctuary, quiet or otherwise. The credit for that goes to the people who make this house a home, and the credit for that goes to the one who brought us all together as a family.

I don’t need to understand the peace to appreciate the way it changes my life.

A prayer for August 30:

Lord, thank you for speaking to me in so many different ways. I can hear you in the silence, but also in the many different sounds that punctuate my day. When my children laugh, when the faithful pray and sing, when nature can’t contain itself just outside my windows and doors. The work of your hands is visible and audible at every turn, and yet somehow I know you still care about me and the matters of my own heart and mind. Thank you for the gift of this life in your creation. Amen.

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