“Now concerning brotherly love, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” I Thessalonians 4:9-12
“Jesus, living a quiet life sounds so inviting, but I know it won’t come easily. I ask for the grace to mind my own business, not so I can close myself off from the world, but that I won’t add to the noise.” John Blase, Our Daily Bread, October 16, 2019
We live in a very noisy world! My current situation has seemed to amplify this truth. As I prayerfully seek to keep my thoughts focused on all the Good, the True, and the Beautiful found in my Savior and Best Friend, I have been aware of the frequent assaults that can distract my attention. The devotional that accompanied the thoughts with which I opened this post was providentially provided when I needed it the most. The quiet life is to be treasured! Loving others and using the gifts He has given me in service to others is my passion, but I am feeling little in the way of opportunity. Changing my expectations concerning other people has become very necessary. I do not want to participate in the noise-making nor is it conducive to good health. I desire the quiet life lived in His presence, but greatly miss the fellowship so precious in the past. Three assaults on the quiet have become apparent during the last year.
The first is angry people on the attack. I am learning that some people do not seek resolution. I recall one situation in which I suggested that we pray together. Although this was first met with agreement my reaching to support an aching back was met with an accusation of negative body language. My suggestion that we sit while praying again received an angry response. When I suggested that I would stay and pray alone I was told to “knock myself out!” The following verses have brought comfort and perspective.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
“Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165 (Note: I particularly love this verse in the King James where it reads “nothing shall offend them.” This has always meant a great deal to me since it was first shared during a prayer meeting devotional lead by Pastor Thomas King at Cornwall Baptist Church in the 1980’s. Do pastors ever really know the way in which they are used?)
“Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful (Again I love the King James version of this which says that love “thinketh no evil.”); it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7
Rather than being blind-sided by these unanticipated, no-win encounters I must change my expectations and withdraw when appropriate. Such action helps preserve the quiet life to which I am called. Another very timely provision, for which I am greatly appreciative, is a book recommendation from my sister, Joan. Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham Lotz. Timely indeed! Knowing He sees, understands, and loves me just as I am, encourages me to listen to the voice of my Faithful Friend, Who, though perfect, knew more rejection, malice, and both verbal and physical assaults than I will ever know. But He never reciprocated the anger and hatred aimed toward Him nor defended Himself. He only did so in defense of His Father. May the power of His presence help me to continue to love without defense.
The second is the assault through unproductive comments concerning my condition. Comments like “You seem a little off today” pronounced as judgement rather than concern for or inquiry as to your condition can make a cancer patient self-conscious. People who share their research concerning the side-effects of your oral chemotherapy with laughter about how bad it can get and how awful it can be are disconcerting and baffling. My prayer is that I will never do the same to anyone else. The Lord has enabled me to not take offense and to continue to love them, believing they are well-intentioned. This is His gift. Remember? “Nothing shall offend them.” Loving His law and trusting His goodness deafens me to discouragement and fears.
The third assault comes from a sense of being side-lined, hearing an unprofitable song called Rejected, Unnecessary, and Alone. As I have shared before, I have such a strong desire to be engaged in “furthering His Kingdom before I have one foot in it!” When emails to five different people receive no response and someone’s Facebook post concerning a hydrangea bush receives more response than a post concerning answered prayer it is extremely sobering.
Although it would be great to have others accept the invitation to my celebration, I am realizing that He is the greatest party-planner of them all! The music He brings to my soul, the nourishment He provides through His Word, and His presence guarantee a great time. I am learning that He will take care of the guest list. For example, the other day I received an email from someone from my past who was writing just to express joy in what God has been doing in my life. This shows me that I do not even schedule the parties!
I must honestly confess that it is extremely difficult for me to await His timing regarding service, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue to teach. I have an incredible joy in sharing the truth of mathematics and in seeking to support the success of my students. Joan has repeatedly reminded me that service is not always in the big events and responsibilities, but in the living of every day. I have often joked with her about my shopping ministry. It is amazing the opportunities that arise when you are aware of those around you, from fellow customers to cashiers! I have also joked about going on deputation seeking support funds for my ministry!
A very timely release, James K. A. Smith’s On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts, has helped bring clarity. I am reminded that I am a spiritual refugee in the present world and must hold everything lightly. I find myself seeking others who realize that we are living in a very temporary tent city on our way to our true home in Heaven. No music of this world compares with the songs of celebration we will share in the world to come! The present noise distracts and gives me pause on the path on which He has placed me. When this happens, I am learning to sing songs of worship and Truth.
I am reminded of my visit to Masada in Israel so many years ago. Instead of hiking to the top, I boarded a cable car believing that it would take me to the summit only to discover that I still needed to climb stone steps carved into the cliff. Being extremely afraid of heights I began to panic, but I found that if I let my mind sing the song, “Marching to Zion” my fear subsided. “Come, we who love the Lord, and let our joys be known …. We’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.” I rhythmically marched upward and reached the top. It would serve me well to remember that I am still marching and still climbing, following the One Who is leading me Home. That realization will surely help eliminate any unwelcome noise! Singing helps sound-proof my path!
My article, In with the Lions, Out with the Lamb, posted on this site, was written after my first cancer experience. How enriching the last two experiences have been! I have so much more to learn in this Classroom Called Cancer. I am just so thankful that the truly victorious Lion of Judah loves me enough to teach me how to live this quiet life free of the noise of the world and its pursuits. The Lamb of God still brings “me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” (I Samuel 22:20) And He sound-proofs my soul for His purposes!
“Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry:
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.” Robert Lowry