Noise is not my friend. You might even call noise my nemesis because it can overwhelm me to a point where I feel out of control of my own mind. If you ask my kids what the rules are for the car, they will tell you no music, no questions, and no yelling because the noise makes it hard for me to drive without feeling distracted. Shopping too, especially in countries where music is played loudly can flood me. Add in blinking lights, foreign languages, and four kids and I will not remember why I went shopping in the first place.
I’m finding, however, that noise is not just outside the home but it is also found in my computer and on my TV. This noise isn’t stimulating my ears, but it floods me in the same way, inundating my body with anxiety and frustration.
It isn’t the sound, it is all the opinions and facts and science and politics that overwhelm me. It becomes a cacophony of noise that consumes my mind. It has me wondering why I continue to put myself in the position of being overwhelmed. Why do I keep looking up new articles or podcasts or books? What need is it fulfilling in my life?
I think most of us in cross-cultural ministry desire to see change in the world. I know that I have been anxious that God wouldn’t send me a burning bush or nervous that I missed my chance at living on the front lines.
I find myself drawn to a myriad of information ranging from church and faith to social justice, politics and other social issues because it makes me feel important. It gives me the rush of being a part of something big and it serves to distract me from the more painful and personal matters of self-loathing, anxieties, insecurities and boredom.
It keeps problems at arm’s length, however. When I am consuming articles on politics, for example, I am focusing my emotional energy on those outside myself and I’m buffered against any real emotion. Even the heated disagreements on Facebook allow me to express frustration and anger externally at ‘those’ people while requiring no actual sacrifice.
I am easily tempted to open my browser for a quick scroll on social media and there is always something new to be angry about or jealous about or enthralled with but for all the information at my fingertips I am stunting my own growth and numbing my personal feelings.
But the goodness of God keeps prompting me with 1 Thessalonians 4:11: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life; you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.”
I’m finding that it can be safer to keep our world so big that we don’t have to see what is in front of us. I can read all the articles on the internet about homelessness. I can have an opinion on why there are so many homeless in California and what should be done about it. I can blame politicians and the lack of mental health institutions, but I’ve done nothing to resolve the reality of the man, who smells like urine, asking me to buy him Lunchables at the grocery store.
It is easier to be up on the ivory tower looking down because ideas are easier to deal with than reality.
The Gospel, our good news, isn’t about big ideas and ideologies. The gospel is about a good God that enters into our lives to affect deep change in our hearts and souls, to call us back to our original purpose of loving and being loved by God. The gospel fleshes out the lies that we believe about ourselves and others so that we can interact without causing more pain. It is first personal before it can ever be communal.
We are often told to see the big picture of what God is doing but today I hear God telling me the opposite. Keep your world small, he says. Look your children in the eye and play. Sit in silence and deal with the unrest in your soul. See your neighbors and know them and their needs. Listen to the words people speak. Wash your dishes, make your bed, kiss your husband and sleep soundly. When you come face to face with injustice or loss, I will give you the strength and wisdom you need to face the moment, to show mercy and to love in humility.
Big ideas only make a difference through the smallest of actions. So, instead of focusing on big and grand ideas, I will begin to act out my convictions on the lowest of levels. I will let the cacophony of noise fade away so that my mind can be clear enough to see what God is asking me to do day to day. I will do justice. I will love mercy. I will walk humbly.
How can you make your world smaller? How can you act out your convictions in small ways?