And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I Kings 19: 11-12
I wrote a lengthy reflection on my time at summer camp last month which I’ve shared with my parish as a long article in the monthly bulletin. For this week, I’m going to share it with you in five parts. Today is part five.
In a room full of people, the loudest voice is the one that is heard. In a group full of singers, the one closest to the microphone is the one that is heard the most. The world is trying to recondition us, by drowning out God’s voice. The world has redefined the Sabbath—it is no longer holy. Sundays used to be preserved for worship and family. Now Sunday is a sports day, the number of people who worship each week nationwide is down, and the family unit is being ripped apart. The world has redefined marriage. Yes, there is the whole same-sex marriage argument, but it’s even more than that. People live together without being married, which undermines love and commitment, and ultimately intimacy. It’s the ultimate expression of “I’m not sure you are really enough.” Because it is convenient acceptance rather than complete acceptance. We’ve redefined the sanctity of life, by making it easy to terminate a life that is not wanted. In fact, we demand and celebrate our ability to do this. Life, when it begins, how it ends, and what we do with it, is not seen as holy, but as disposable. Which is why so many people are so reckless. We’re trying to redefine gender, as if God makes mistakes, or as if God didn’t deliberately create two distinct genders. We are redefining intelligence. You can now type in a request and some artificial intelligence will write your term paper or Sunday sermon in the way it wants to. We are created after God’s image and likeness, with God-giving intelligence that is real and not artificial. We are abrogating our intelligence in a way that doesn’t show humility (I’m not that intelligent) but rather shows laziness (Let something else do the work), but will ultimately lead to even more anxiety (I’m not good enough). And after we redefine intelligence, after we’ve redefined the Sabbath, marriage, life and gender, there will be nothing left to do but to redefine God as an entity that revolves around us, rather than the center around Who we revolve. And what has this gotten us? We’ve never felt more isolation, loneliness, anxiety and shame. Because we’ve taken Him from the center and put ourselves in His place. And we’ve forgotten that real contentment and real intimacy comes from having Him at the center.
I’ve often used the analogy of the boiling frogs, who were either too ignorant or too lazy to jump out of the pot of water they were in until it was too late and they boiled to death. We’re at this point in our society. We’re about to boil. So we need to turn the heat down and jump out, before we’re all cooked. And we need to jump not to another political cause or protest about our perceived rights. We need to jump to Jesus, the light that shines in the darkness, that no darkness can overtake, the only way to turn down the boiling water and make it tranquil once again.
I did an exercise with our staff at camp called “letters to Jesus.” Each person wrote a short letter to Jesus. We put them in a pile, no names on them, then we each took out a card and we read the letters (not our own, but we knew the letter came from someone in our group) aloud as a prayer. This exercise was heart-breaking because of the sorrowful things written on the cards. But more than that, it was refreshing, because it was so honest and so raw. This too, was an intimate moment, because it was safe and honest, and it put Him at the center. So as we begin a new school year, perhaps take out a piece of paper and write your own letter to Jesus. Tell Him how you really feel about Him, and about life. And ask Him, in your letter, to move you towards a state of contentment, so that you will feel like He is enough, you will feel like you are enough, so that you can feel like it is enough. And this will be a valuable first step towards getting to the place where you are “always blessed.”
The loudest voice wins. The voices of the endless news cycle, the voices of discontentment, the voices that make us feel we have to keep up, and the internal voice that makes us feel anxious and isolated—none of these voices can match the voice of the Lord if we let Him be the loudest voice. Here’s the thing though, Elijah heard God’s voice we are told, in I Kings 19, not in the strong wind, or in an earthquake, not in a raging fire. He heard God in a small voice. I saw God at summer camp, not in the busyness of the schedule, not in the disappointments and challenges, not even in the frivolity and fun. I saw God in the faces of others when there was no agenda, when there was intimacy, when there was complete acceptance. And I saw God when I stopped looking down at my schedule and my agenda and when I looked up and saw Him in His majesty.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In Thy faithfulness answer me in Thy righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for no man living is righteous before Thee. For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that Thou hast done; I muse on what Thy hands have wrought. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul thirsts for Thee like a parched land. Make haste to answer me, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not Thy face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the Pit. Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in Thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to Thee I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies! I have fled to Thee for refuge! Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God! Let Thy good spirit lead me on a level path! For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In Thy righteousness bring me out of trouble! And in Thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am Thy servant. Psalm 143
We can only control our own lives. Think about the things in your life that need some reconditioning so that you are more Christ-centered.