I took my morning walk today at a nearby nature preserve. I walked through the countryside enjoying a crisp fall breeze off the lake in the distance. I am trying to practice what I so often preach: Carve out time and space each day to escape the noise and quiet myself in the presence of God and His Word.
Soon the soothing sounds of the gentle breeze and singing birds were drowned out by loud music coming from a vehicle that was stopped ahead by the stream. I was even more disturbed to discover that this was no casual visitor to the park, but a couple of DNR or park employees out taking water samples from the stream.
Yes, the people called to serve and protect the beauty and peacefulness of the natural habitat were checking the water for pollutants while polluting the air with noise. Hmmm.
They were younger workers. Part of that generation of millennials leading the way in living a perpetually plugged-in and overly-connected existence. The folks who always have earbuds in and eyes and thumbs on their smart phone screens. (Oh, I know, most of us have caught up to the millennials by now and we’re all equally addicted.)
But I like to think that those called to serve as park rangers and naturalists in generations past tended to prefer nature’s soundtrack to human noise. I like to pretend such folks tended to spend their days quietly roaming the parks with ears tuned to nature’s songs, with eyes open to the natural beauty around them, and thereby living a more grounded existence than most.
I guess we’re living in times where all too often:
- the doctor is as sick as the patient.
- the therapist is as depressed as the client.
- the teacher is as confused as the student.
- the lawyer is being sued.
- the water pollution patrol is polluting the air, and
- the pastor is feeling far away from God.
The ancient wisdom of the Scriptures repeatedly invites us to pursue purity amidst the pollution.
Purity of heart.
Purity of soul.
Purity of mind.
Purity of desire.
We’re offered peace in the middle of the storm. Clarity amidst cultural confusion.
One biblical image that captures this peaceful, pollution free life we’re invited to is from the beloved Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He lets me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul” (vv. 1-3).
Yes, it is these quiet, peaceful waters that I go in search of on my morning walk everyday. It is the faith that truly believes we “lack nothing” because God will provide everything needed that I preach each Sunday. It is the soul-nourishing Word of God that I urge people to feed on like lush green pastures each week.
But often I feel like I’m preaching into a hurricane, and few are listening to (or at least willing to act on) such desperate pleas. Our days are filled with the noise pollution of Facebook statuses, twitter feeds, news headlines, email interruptions, crying babies, tempter-tantrum toddlers, hectic schedules lacking any margin, and we finally crash onto the couch exhausted and numb our brains and escape with mindless TV shows.
As our body slips off to sleep, our soul lies awake muttering the Psalmist’s prayer: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Ps. 42).
I cannot afford NOT to make room in my life for a visit to the calm waters of God’s reassuring presence each day. My soul shrivels quickly when I don’t feed my mind daily on God’s Word.
Peter is conducting his own toxicity test on the young Christians he is writing to scattered across the morally polluted Roman empire, urging them to purify their lives of toxic behaviors and feed themselves on a pure diet of God’s Word:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth… Therefore, rid yourselves of [the pollution of!] all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 1:22; 2:1-3).
We can (and will) continue making excuses for why we don’t escape daily to God’s quiet waters and drink deeply from the “pure spiritual milk” of Scripture. But we all make time for all kinds of lesser things — myself included.
I’m grateful for the reminder the DNR worker gave me today. Its possible to be checking the water for pollution while polluting the air with noise. We can fill our ears with a 30-minute sermon on Sunday and fill the rest of our week with life-draining noise.
We can sing endlessly of God’s quiet waters, but what good is it if we’re still living under a waterfall?
- Will you take a “noise audit” this next week? Monitor how many hours you spend each day taking in noise, messages, media, radio, television, emails? Then monitor how much time you spend taking in God’s Word (quiet time, prayer, sermons, Bible reading, meditation, etc.).
- Next, test the quality of the noise to see how “polluted” it is with negative, ungodly messages.
- Finally, will you consider a season of fasting from social media (Facebook, news feeds, etc.) as a way of obeying the biblical command to “rid yourselves of [the pollution of!] all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind”? Perhaps you want to disengage from the negativity surrounding the upcoming election by fasting until after election day?