White Noise

One of the uber-great things about being retired, I’ve discovered, is that I don’t have to get out of bed as soon as I wake up.  Oh, I still wake up at zero dark o’clock, but now I can just roll over and pretend to go back to sleep.  For a little while, anyway.  Until my back starts to hurt too much, or until my bladder reminds me I’m, well, of a retireable age.  Or until Mischa the Cat discovers I’m awake.  Then, of course, it’s game over.

This morning, as I was enjoying those moments of being awake and knowing I didn’t have to get up, I heard the train go by, blowing its whistle or horn or whatever it is trains blow these days as it passed through the various intersections in town.

When I moved into this little apartment two months ago to wait out the time until I left California for Missouri, I wondered whether the proximity of that train was going to prove annoying. I realized this morning, as I listened to it clatter its way down the tracks, that I hardly even heard it anymore.  It had become part of the everyday noise of my life.  White noise.

And I wondered, what else don’t I hear?  I decided to pay attention today and find out.

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Are there really birds chirping outside my window every morning?  And who knew there were so many dogs around here?  There’s a park just across the way, and it turns out when you pull your attention away from Facebook and Twitter and email and Words with Friends, you can hear children laughing.

Oh, and my refrigerator makes an annoying hum for a good part of the day.

Okay, that was an interesting experiment, I mused, opening a book on my Nook.  But a thought kept niggling at the back of my mind.  It wouldn’t leave me alone, like a fly buzzing around my face.  More annoying even than the humming refrigerator.

So I put down the Nook and stared out the window, and pretty soon that niggling thought jelled.

Has the voice of God become white noise to me?

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I remember when I first became a Christian, 42 years ago this month, I heard God everywhere, all the time.  Oh, not the big, booming voice kind of thing.  But when I saw a beautiful sunrise, I heard God whisper, “Isn’t that pretty?  I painted it for you.”   Now when I see a sunrise the voice in my head says, “What the heck are you doing up this early?”

As a new Christian, when someone did me wrong, God’s words sounded in my ears:  “Turn the other cheek.  Love those who curse you; love and hate not.”  These days, my first response to insult – though usually I am able to resist the temptation – has more to do with a particular finger than with my cheek.

Back then, when I faced a decision, I actively sought God’s guidance.  First.  Instead of presenting Him with a fait accompli and saying, in effect, “That’s okay with you, isn’t it?” like I often do nowadays.

So, when did God become relegated to the realm of white noise in my life?

It happened when the newness wore off, when I grew comfortable (read: complacent) in my Christianity.  It happened when I became well-versed in Scripture and knowledgeable (read: arrogant) about my faith.  It happened when I got caught up in the busy-ness and worldliness of my life (read: selfish) and forgot it wasn’t my life anymore – it belonged to God.

This day, I resolve to move God out of the background and once again into the forefront of my life.  All I have to do is just stop for a second and listen.  He’s there, just as He’s always been, speaking to me.

I just have to listen.

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