Be Still

I’m a musician.

This means that, among other things,  I run in a community of musicians. Funny how that works!

A little over a year ago, I was sitting at a Starbucks in South Carolina with a musician friend of mine  (He is a much better musician than I, but that is not the point). There we were, drinking lattes and catching up when he turned his gaze toward the ceiling.

“Do you hear that?” Jack said, his expression darkening.

“Hear what? I said.

“Listen!” He said, glaring at the speakers above our heads. “Do you know that song?”

I closed my eyes and strained to hear the music over the hiss and gurgle of milk being steamed for someone’s cappuccino.

I shrugged. “Nope,” I said. I can’t make it out.

He threw his hands in the air. “That is a cut off of Miles Davis’ record Kind of Blue,” his voice rising with indignation.

This was apparently troublesome to him. I looked at him, confused.

“It’s freakin’ Miles Davis!” He said. “When brilliant compositions are used for background music it desensitizes people to their genius. Familiarity breeds contempt! If an amazing piece of music is constantly playing in the background, your admiration for it doesn’t increase, it diminishes. It becomes no big deal.”

At the time I thought Jack’s remarks were insightful but overstated. Yet, something about them rang true.

Last week I was sitting in another Starbucks, this one just a few blocks from my house in Montgomery, AL doing some reading and drinking coffee when I made a connection between what Jack had said and the world I live in. Funny how that works!

Has Jesus become background music in my life?

I majored in Religion. I work at a church. No matter where I go someone is talking, singing, arguing, writing a book, blogging, putting on a conference, or making a record about Jesus.

(Yes…I am aware that I am guilty of this right now).

It seems like not a day goes by that I don’t see a t-shirt with a scripture reference, or a tattoo of the crucifixion inked on someones arm, or a gold cross hanging from someones neck. Billboards warning about Hell dot the interstate where I live. I can’t turn on the radio or television without someone telling me about Jesus. He is quoted (and misquoted) on bumper stickers and recently while standing at a urinal in the men’s room of a restaurant I found a gospel tract that had fallen to the floor. Some people don’t do subtle.

If Jack’s theory is correct, this incessant exposure to all things Jesus isn’t increasing my admiration for him, it’s diminishing it.

Now, more than ever, in the chaotic rhythm of my life it is important that I make time to do as the Psalmist says and “Be still, and know that I am God.”

In Max Picard’s “The World of Silence” he writes,

Today when there is only noise in and around man, it is difficult to approach the mystery. When the layer of silence is missing, the extraordinary easily becomes connected with the ordinary, the routine flow of things, and man reduces the extraordinary to a mere part of the mechanical routine.

How then do we prevent over-exposure to Jesus and the trappings of cultural Christianity? How do we keep from reducing him to a mere part of the mechanical routine?

Be still.

Be still and know that he is God.

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