Note: I realized that inadvertently identified the Florida school shooter as Victor Cruz. His name is Nikolas Cruz. Apparently, Victor Cruz plays football. My sincere apologies for the error.
They built a “non-echoing chamber” in Minnesota that is the quietest place on earth. The walls absorb almost all sound. The only sounds left are your heartbeat and your digestive track and your pulse. After about 45 minutes in this chamber you start to go crazy.
Most of us live with the opposite problem: so much noise that it is hard to discern important sounds from unimportant sounds.
I have some hearing loss due to loud music as a youth. Sometimes I cannot hear my own kids in the store and fear that I’ve lost them. Mostly though, I crave silence. I need space and tranquility. That’s why I like the bell. I don’t actually like the sound, but I like the invitation to silence. If you live with a lot of silence already, it makes sense to me that you would crave MORE voices, not less.
What’s striking to me about Jesus’ baptism is that he was then immediately sent into the desert to wrestle with the devil. I like how Mark leaves both the baptism and the temptation very stark. Jesus hears a voice of affirmation, the same God in spirit form sends him to boot camp.
And I think that is how we ought to think of Jesus’ temptations and Lent…it is training. It’s not like temptation only lives in the desert. The reality is that temptation lurks around every corner.
For me, I have a bad relationship with food. I know where every convenience store is in Clark County. Lent calls me into a silent space…not to drive me crazy, but so I can hear the madness of my actions.
I really wish [Nikolas] Cruz had been given the opportunity to healthily confront the madness within his own plans to shoot people at school. It sounds like people tried to hear his voice crying out but either couldn’t or wouldn’t before it was too late.
I think it might be wise for the nation to listen to the wails coming out of Florida. We would have to confront the fact that we’ve allowed the cries from Columbine and Newtown and so many others to fade into the ether.
But that’s how God figured out the first murder. “What have you done?” God cried out to Cain. “Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” That is when Cain understood the madness of his murdering his brother. I wonder if all killing is some replay of that original sin. God begged Cain to listen, to be silent, and to hear what God was hearing. Cain then cries.
I don’t want to paint Lent as a magic wand to wipe away all issues. But Lent reveals a strategy for dealing with the madnesses within and among us. While often we are called to be the voice of the voiceless, I think we are in a season of intense holy listening. We cannot confront any madness unless we allow that madness to be heard. We cannot heal or console anyone unless we hear and enter into that person’s anguish. This Lent, above all else, let us soften our voices, even to silence. Let us become better listeners: to our neighbors, our community, our friends and our enemies. We cannot proceed with good news until we know what’s true and what’s just noise. For the next 40 days, let us follow Jesus into the desert place and wrestle with the tempter.