One of my two youthful exposures to Cheech and Chong was in seventh-grade music class. It was “bring-your-record-to-music-class” day and someone played “Sister Mary Elephant.” It’s the interaction of the Nun, Sister Mary Elephant, with a class she’s substituting teaching. The teacher that she’s subbing for is Sister Rosetta Stone. Sister Mary Elephant talks quietly and sanely, the kids get louder and louder, until Sister Mary Elephant screams at the top of her lungs, “SHUT UPPPPPPP!” They get quiet. She says very properly, “Thank you.” Then they get louder again. And louder. She screams again. This interaction is repeated for three minutes and 39 seconds.
We (the seventh graders) thought it was one of the funniest things we’d ever heard. I mean it was flat out hilarious. It was the hit of record day!
Found it on YouTube. Just listened to it again.
Do you know what? It’s not funny at all!
It’s just dumb! It’s just kids being loud and a teacher screaming. How is that funny? The only funny thing is the name of the other teacher, Sister Rosetta Stone. That kind of cracked me up. And Tommy Chong’s voice in the background talking back at the teacher was funny because I saw him on Dancing with the Stars and at 78 he sounds EXACTLY THE SAME.
But the rest? Just annoying. Which means, “Newsflash!” As a seventh grader, I was kind of dumb, with a seventh-grade sense of humor. I know I know! Seeeeems absurd but it’s true.
But it got me thinking.
I wonder if God ever feels like Sister Mary Elephant.
Here’s what I mean. We are addicted to noise. Some of us:
- Get in the car and turn on the radio.
- Walk in the house and turn on the TV.
- Lay in bed and turn on music to go to sleep.
- Go for a jog or to the gym and put in the earbuds.
- Go for a hike in the woods with the earbuds.
But it’s not just audible noise. It’s visual noise too. Some of us:
- Walk through the house on the smartphone.
- Stand in line at the movie theater on the smartphone.
- Watch the movie in the movie theater while on the smartphone (this should be a federal offense).
- Work out while on the smartphone.
- Have dinner with other humans while on the smartphone.
- Pump gas while on the smartphone.
- Sit in the meetings while on the smartphone.
- Walk into walls on the smartphone.
- Fall down the stairs on the smartphone.
We fill our ears with noise and fill our eyes with noise and fill our minds with noise I just wonder if God just looks on in wonder at our addiction to noise and nonsense and navel gazing and just wants to yell,
I wonder if He marvels at our disappointment in our ability to hear Him even as we are wallowing in noise.
A recurring theme of Scripture is that sometimes the only way we will ever hear the voice of God is to actually, “shut up.” To shut up verbally, aurally (look it up), and even mentally. To just be quiet, to block out all outside stimuli, and quit the mind racing from thing to thing, and focus on Jesus.
David was good at this. And he preached about it a bit. And he heard from God. A lot.
David wrote, Psalm 63:6, “On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night.”
If you’ve got the TV on every time you can’t sleep, you won’t hear from God, but you’ll see a lot of really, really good infomercials. And own 300 “My Pillows.”
David also wrote, Psalm 62:5, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.“
My soul won’t be silent, and I might miss my Hope, but doggone it! At least I won’t miss out on the glamorous lives my friends are living on Instagram and Facebook!
David wrote, Psalm 37:7, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; don’t fret over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”
But I love fretting! Fretting is my favorite! I may not hear from God, but I’ll get in a tremendous amount of most excellent worry!
And of course, God Himself says famously, Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
God speaks in the silence.
Of course, God speaks all the time in many ways. But there are things He wants to say that we’ll never hear if we can’t silence ourselves. We cannot hear Him if we’re filling our ears and eyes and souls with noise.
Think for a moment, when was the last time you experienced purposeful silence?
And by silent, I mean eyes, ears, and heart.
- When was the last time you just stared into space? Just sat, and calmly and serenely just looked ahead at nothing imparticular, and contemplated God?
- When was the last time you woke at 3:00 am, and instead of stirring a pot of worries in your in your head, you just thought lovingly of your heavenly Father?
- When was the last time you just gazed at a night sky and wondered about Him?
- When was the last time you knelt to pray, and instead of rattling off 35 things you need right away, you paused, and said,”Jesus, I’m here to listen to You,” and just knelt for a time?
- When was the last time you sat…and waited…on God? For more than 15 seconds.
David experienced the power of God, He trusted God, He loved God, and He wrote and wrote and wrote about His time with God. He experienced God in a way that most of us want to. And silence was one of his secrets.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5 (ESV)
Amen and amen.
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