“Did I remember to brush my teeth today? No more meetings for another hour - wait, who is this walking in? Did I schedule a meeting for right now? Emails. Emails? News stations; bad news: a continent on fire, a country divided, and a city hurting; fear, anger, and resentment. Is that my heart rate?! Did I leave the oven on?”
“Stop.” I can almost hear the Lord whispering oh so softly for us to just stop. He is whispering for us to stop running around, stop flailing about, stop chasing the wind, but to instead just stop and listen. I can faintly hear Him say, “I’m trying to speak to you.” How do we listen to the soft voice of comfort when the loud clamoring voice of life continues to bang incessantly in our hearts and minds? STOP!!!
When life resembles clamor and chaos we can find ourselves building walls. These walls are built one brick at a time. People cutting us off in traffic is a brick, politics is a brick, and stress, as Pink Floyd put it, “is another brick in the wall.” What happens when God’s people are hidden behind fortresses of unrest? The world is deprived of pockets of peace. Our neighbors, friends, and loved ones are denied counter-narratives to the swarm of killer thoughts that threaten to sting them with painful poison. Our co-workers fall deeper into despair as the prospect of prestige eludes them and then the inevitable disappointment turns to depression. One event after another - “another brick in the wall.” How do we combat a nation divided, a city hurting, and a world characterized by trauma? We stop, listen, learn, and then we lead.
There are many men and women throughout scripture that understood the importance of stopping. There were many who valued the discipline of silence, and some who learned from God how best to lead in the midst of chaos. Joshua stopped long enough to listen to God, to learn how to proceed, and to bring down barriers that laid up ahead. He then went on to lead God’s people through the streets of Jericho. Esther stilled her nerves in a time of great unrest, was silent about her heritage until the right time, listened to her Uncle, and learned that God was the highest authority on earth. She led God’s people away from genocide. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stuck their heels into the sand and would not deny their identity in the face of an egomaniac who lacked even an ounce of humility. They listened, not to the insatiable clamor of pompous political fever, but to the soft humble heart of their God. They learned that even in the face of certain death their God was Most High, and they led an inflated leader to admit that their God was the only God!
As the Hebrews writer so famously reminded us, “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2). And how did Jesus do this? He stopped, listened, learned, and then led.