I learned a valuable lesson this morning and God used my children to teach it to me. I slept in late, surprised by how tired I was from my trip to Guatemala. Upon waking up I decided to go into my home office and spend some quiet time in the Word and in prayer. I began by determining to spend 15 minutes in a spiritual exercise called “Centering Prayer.”
If you don’t know what Centering Prayer is, I highly recommend buying this book, “The God of Intimacy and Action” by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling. Mary teaches several classes at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. In fact, the reason I was in Guatemala was to take a class with Mary Albert Darling on Social Justice and Christian Formation. It was a phenomenal first-hand experience of seeing what it looks like to do ministry in hard places. I learned how to ask “beautiful questions” while I was there. This is something I want to carry with me into my daily walk, regardless of where or how I am serving Christ.
Back to this morning’s valuable lesson. I started by reading this verse: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) No sooner did I start to pray when I heard an unfamiliar sound right outside my office door. My daughter, Grace, was sitting at the piano, trying to plunk out a simple melody. I say this was an “unfamiliar” sound because our piano is typically used as a dust collector rather than a musical instrument. This morning, however, it was being used as an instrument of distraction. How was I supposed to focus myself in silent prayer when I couldn’t help but hear every note she was attempting to arrange into something that made sense.
Next I heard the distinct voice of my son, Caleb. “That’s now how it goes.” Bracing myself for a fight, I listened to hear what would happen next. Instead of two hands on the piano, I began to hear four. Four hands, all playing something different, something random, something cacophonous.
I repeated this word to myself: “peace.” But I found myself thinking, ‘How am I supposed to have peace in the midst of chaos and noise?’ The answer came back to me: “Exactly.”
I chided myself for not getting up earlier and doing this while everyone was still asleep. Then I could experience the peace and quiet I thought I needed. About to give up, I felt God’s Spirit whispering the verse to me again: “Be still and know that I am God.”
I began to think about my trip to Guatemala and how life changing it was for me to experience God’s presence in the midst of such brokenness. I was reminded of the many little things I did to help nurture my ability to hear God’s voice in that place. I practiced Centering Prayer. I meditated on scripture. I journaled the ways I heard God speaking and saw him moving. I engaged in authentic community and asked beautiful questions.
I recognize that the issues of daily living here in the States sound a lot like my kids banging on the piano. There are endless distractions and demands placed upon us from the minute our feet touch the ground each day. Our life is noisy. If we are not careful, that noise will drown out our ability to hear from God. Yet he tells us to “Be still and know that He is God.”
Recognizing my mind wandering to all of these thoughts, I simply said “peace” and tried to do exactly what this passage is telling me. Be still. Know that God is God. Even in the noise.
Gradually something strange began to take place. My two children started to work together and form began to take shape in the midst of chaos. They began to play a simple pattern, one person going first, starting at the bottom of the piano, then the next person joining in an octave later. Next thing I knew, their individual noise turned into melody and harmony.
Sitting in my office, trying desperately to stay in a place of prayer, I found myself thinking about what was taking shape outside my door. It seemed to me that there is a rhythm to life that, if we let it, eventually finds its beat.
As we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and place ourselves in healthy community (the Church is the best place for this), our own individual strivings get reshaped into a beautiful symphony conducted by none other than God himself. We gradually begin to play our parts with gusto while God claps his hands and moves to the rhythm. Even more than that, he sets the rhythm and helps us stay in time, After all, He is God!
I learned to ask beautiful questions while I was in Guatemala. And I feel like I am still learning the context in which to ask these questions amidst the daily happenings of my life. I won’t stop asking and I won’t stop listening.
Something tells me that God has much more to say, even in the noise. The challenge will be for me to hear him, to know him, to be directed by him, and to respond by adding my own voice to the beautiful work that he is doing in this world.
As a father, I know my kids don’t have to play perfect for me to enjoy their music. It’s the mere fact that they attempt to make music at all which makes me beam from ear to ear.
Isn’t God like that?