How to Find Clarity in a Noisy World

by | Mar 30, 2017 | Lent, Rhythms of Rest

In a dimly lit room, I sit in a plastic chair across from a young woman wearing a black hijab. With eyes focused on a computer screen, she asks several standard questions before performing my eye exam.

No, I don’t have a history of diabetes. No, I don’t have glaucoma. Uncharacteristically, I scheduled this free eye test on a Sunday, before the coupon expires. On Mother’s Day to avoid my inevitable disappointment.

That last sentence wasn’t audible but swimming inside my head.

Until two years ago, for my entire life, I’ve associated May as the month for Mother’s Day. But in the UK, Mother’s Day is in March. As an expat, this creates a conundrum in my household that leaves me feeling meh about what should be a celebratory occasion.

Like turning clocks forward on the same day we honor mothers who are often sleep deprived, two choices about when to celebrate Mother’s Day initially seem good, but in actuality, create an impairment.

Do we celebrate in March or wait until May? Half-hearted on both dates has become my new reality.

As a clergy wife, Mother’s Day falls on our busiest day of the week. And my least favorite activity is eating out on Sunday, the day I choose to rest.

What do you want me to do for you? It’s a question Jesus asks his disciples James and John and the same one he asks Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting on the side of the road. It’s the question my people ask every Mother’s Day and I often acquiesce. I fear imposing on the people I love.

“It’s straightforward; it’s simple, isn’t it? It’s obvious how a blind man would answer that question, but Jesus wants to hear him say it with specificity and without reservation. He’s asking you and me the same question when it comes to making rest a rhythm. How will you answer?” Rhythms of Rest, page 43

“Move your chair forward, rest your chin on the white plastic, and lean your forehead into the metal bar,” the doctor instructs.

As I stare at white letters illuminated on a screen, I hear a woman’s angry voice in the next room. “I got a text from her. Not a card, phone call, flowers or a gift, just a text. She’s nineteen and knows better than that.”

What I hear during a pause in a quiet room convicts my heart.

Unmet expectations sound entitled, ungrateful, and selfish from where I sit.

They sound a lot like me.

Forgive me Lord.

“James writes, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak,’ but often I get his warning backward: Be slow to listen and quick to speak and communicate a great love story with yourself. Communicate you don’t matter to the ones you love the very most.” A Sabbath Journey for Lent

I’m often slow to speak of what I need and want with specificity. Instead, I analyze what I hear and rehearse how I will respond in a futile attempt to shield myself from vulnerability.

The death of expectations can be painful but not as painful as living a disappointed life; disappointment from what could’ve been instead of thankfulness for what is.

“Is it clearer in one . . .or two? Clearer in three . . . or four?” asks the doctor as rows of letters blur and focus, fog and clear up.

Clearly, value and worth are not determined by sentimentality on a day but in the death of a Savior on my behalf. When the room is fully lit, I lean back in the chair and wait to hear results from calculations.

“Your eyes have declined to the next level,” she says. And I carry home a prescription for new lenses.

Sometimes what we hear isn’t what we expect. And Sabbath is God’s way of parenting us, his children. As we lean into the quiet and listen, clarity breaks through the paper thin walls of the heart with love and belonging.

Back home, I lie down in a swath of Sabbath sunlight, drench my face in warmth, and listen to bees buzzing around the open window and birds chirp from the treetops until I become drowsy.

When I awaken to the sound of a male voice, I realize H and Harrison are standing over me holding Mother’s Day cards.

“May we, on this fourth week of Lent, rise from auditory slumber and echo Samuel’s words: “Speak, your servant is listening.” May we be like the blind man and tell Jesus what we want with specificity.” A Sabbath Journey for Lent

As we rest our ears from unnecessary noise this week and practice sitting in silence, what are you hearing that is normally missed in busyness? Share with the community in the comments.

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  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I have missed you so much, Shelly, because of both my preparation for my pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland (not being a comfortable world-traveler, I really had to stop reading favorite blogs…. sigh… and focus), and while experiencing it. Of course I’ve been on my journey through heaven on earth and returned to St. Louis in the wee (Scottish favorite word) hours of Tuesday morning, having been up twenty-six hours straight traveling. I’m still really jetlagged, but now can find both respite and exhilaration in your words. Such a lovely post. Thank you! I know your beautiful daughter was not there for the March Mothering Sunday. Mine, too, was at home when I was in Scotland, and I missed her so much. So I can only imagine how much you must miss Murielle’s presence (though your hearts are inseparable). And I know Harrison and H brought you joy on this day, appreciating the beautiful mother and wife that you are (and I’ll bet they will celebrate you in May, too! 🙂 ). I appreciate your mention of expectations. I’ve had them, and I’ve experienced their being unmet, which, yes, leads to disappointment. I’m thinking that I would rather live *expectantly* than with expectations. I think for me I can see a fine distinction there. When I have expectations, I dictate to God what He should do. When I live expectantly, I can answer His question of what I want Him to do for me (which, as you indicate, is a really biblical and critical question He wants me to answer), but I can leave the “how” He will answer up to Him. He always surprises me. He did on my journey. He showed up in breathtakingly *unexpected* ways. I was NOT disappointed. He answered, but His answers (plural!!) completely surprised and overwhelmed me. His ways are higher than my requests. There are no words to convey what was so amazing, though of course, I will attempt to find them to express the marvels of what He did and showed me. And if I can’t always find the words, I will rest in Him. REST. You’ve taught me how to rest, not just physically, but spiritually–to rest in Him, expectantly . . . which really means to trust Him completely! Thank you for always finding ways to express my heart’s desire. I love and appreciate you, and will be in touch personally soon!

    • Janet from FL

      I hope I get to hear about some of your experiences in Scotland, Lynn. Have you posted anything on FB yet?

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Hi Janet! You are so sweet to ask. No, I’ve not. I’m still on Scottish time and am ready to go to bed at 1:20 in the afternoon in St. Louis! 🙂 It was easier to adjust to the time change over there somehow. What happened to me was very deep, so I’m not sure I would do FB posts about that really profound inner work. Likely I would write a blog piece, or maybe think about including it in a book. Likely, though I will post general comments and include some of my crummy photos. 🙂 A master photographer like our beautiful Shelly I am not! 🙂 Again, I greatly appreciate your interest.’

  2. Doris Acker

    Shelly, thank you for this particular blog topic. I needed to hear it and repent of having lived so long in some ways a “disappointed life”. As I have tried to rest my ears from the noise of this world and even cut back on listening to music, I have tried to just listen for God more. I have been hearing about being more content with what He provides and how much I am loved. Then I read this blog which I was going to read later on but I was prompted to read and “listen” now. I didn’t fully realize I had been living my life like this. I was saved at nearly 20 years old and realize I have been doing this off and on, sometimes dwelling on what didn’t work out to my expectations, all the while seeing God provide in His way and according to His timetable. No more! I have become more grateful and thankful over the last few years but needed to realize that I was also still holding on to the disappointments. God used you to wake me up. Thanks! Prayer appreciated.

  3. Celeste

    I need your prayers for a disappointment that rears its head now and then. I am that person who rehearses to feel adequate, on top, attempting to control emotions that might explode.
    Just when there is blessed silence in my head from swirling thoughts, something triggers a memory. Just when I feel that I have laid it to rest I feel the pang again. Thanks

  4. Janet from FL

    Since practicing Sabbath has given me more quiet time, I find that Jesus is telling me over and over that He loves me and is always there for me in trials and in blessings. He also asks me to listen to His voice more often. So your mention of being “quick to listen and slow to speak” fits what God has been reminding me as well. It is a good feeling when we get confirmation of what we believe we have heard. So, I will be practicing this being “quick to listen and slow to speak” on a daily basis during the rest of Lent, and hopefully it will become a permanent part of the rest of my days. Being more mindful of it is already an improvement on my current habit of listening to God only during my morning prayers. Thank you for your thoughtful post today, Shelly.

  5. Julie Joiner

    It seems since I began focusing on lent and sabbath, each week the very thing your weekly lent devotion focused on is the area I seemed to flounder more. But I keep on keeping on because in the floundering I still find Him there. I am grateful. In this time of listening I am coming out of a hard experience, one that overtook me for a time, and it is in this place I hear Him say, “Wait!” I am pretty sure in waiting there is a form of resting — resting in Him. To rest in the waiting means I have to let go of outcomes. That sounds wonderful, but challenging. My heart longs for the wonderful. Thanks for bringing Sabbath to our attention and reminding us each week He values the relationship more than our accomplishments.
    Blessings, Julie J.

  6. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you, Shelly, for encouraging us to “rest our ears from unnecessary noise and practice sitting in silence.” During a recent Sabbath rest, God and I enjoyed a balmy spring day on our deck. He reminded me as I journaled: “From tiny flowers in the creek bed to cumulus clouds overhead, my glory is on display. It gladdens My heart to see you take pleasure in what I’ve created. Yes, there is meaning hidden amongst all I have made, lessons for those who look long enough to notice. But like most artists, I, the First Artist, enjoy creating beauty for My children to ENJOY: the plethora of color and sound, the variety of shapes and sizes, the attention to detail. My joy is all the greater when My children take a moment to appreciate these gifts. It truly delights Me that you’ve joined Me here to celebrate a first day of spring.”

  7. Gloryanna

    “Sometimes what we hear isn’t what we expect. And Sabbath is God’s way of parenting us, his children. As we lean into the quiet and listen, clarity breaks through the paper thin walls of the heart with love and belonging.”
    Right now, I did not expect my rhythms of Sabbath to minister to me during my journey of grief. In fact, God has been parenting me and befriending me the most about grief when I am still for the Sabbath. This has definitely been unexpected but so needed. Thank you for your gentle reminder of the impact of being still and the hope that can come from the stillness amidst what normally feels like chaos to me.

  8. Caroline

    Shelly, thank you for sharing your gifts with us. This one hit an old wound that I did not realize was still so tender. As the tears flowed again this morning as I reread Thursday’s blog I knew that in some part of thanking God for this moment of pain and healing I wanted to thank you as well. Thank you for being the vessel, so often, in which God brings me these things. I struggle so with Sabbath, however, God in his faithful, loving and merciful way is always there waiting. God’s peace to you and H!

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