Thursday, June 23, 2005Lately I've felt this overwhelming desire for simplicity. People who have known me for a considerable length of time might find that sort of humorous; I tend to be rather high-strung. But something - exhaustion, curiousity, God - has pushed me into a mindset that feels so quiet and relaxed. It seems like such a foreign concept to me as an American. We're so busy and everything is paced at such a high level. Why? To what end?
I understand that it is necessary that many work stressful jobs; it's something that our society demands. Surely believers need to fill these positions. I used to think I would be one of those people but now I'm not so sure. Maybe it's a phase. Who knows? What I do know is that lately I'm finding a lot of peace and comfort in simple things. Bonhoeffer's writings. The Innocence Mission. Over the Rhine. Ravi's teaching. Maybe all of this is aided by tuning out the noise. I've turned off talk radio, at least until football season rolls around. (If I'm still off it this fall, we'll know something's really up) The television is off, with the exception of the occassional baseball game. (Game 7 of the NBA finals is pretty intense, by the way) I'm having a hard time even keeping up with the political battles in Washington right now, which is causing me to question some previously held views on my own career later in life. I'm still passionate about a lot of things; the unborn, human rights, community development, environmental concerns. I still support democracy around the world and small government at home. (Just arrived in the mail is my copy of The Conservative Mind) I just can't bring myself to rise up in indignation over every Congressional turf battle or every stupid decision by the University of Alabama athletic department (and lo, they are many).
It's been said that we often need a certain level of silence to hear God's voice. What often seems to be missed is the content of that voice. Usually we think of it as God handing out advice, like He is some sort of heavenly shrink. Certainly our Lord can work has He chooses, and He often does. Yet I think we miss something in thinking that we can hear God's calming voice when our own souls are full of the clutter of our fallen modern society. I'm not talking about some mystical Eastern approach; I'm just suggesting that perhaps we're better served by the Gospel of grace and repentance when we turn the volume down on some of the secondary things in our life. I'm not trying to set up a false dichotomy between, say, "secular" and "Christian" music. I just see in my own life, and that of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the way Christ's voice resonates all the more clearly when we pursue some level of simplicity as take up our crosses and follow Him.
To that end, I am reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins' beautiful poem, "Heaven-Haven (A nun takes the veil)", which the Innocence Mission has so artfully set to music:
A nun takes the veil
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.