Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but God was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but God was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11b-13)
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.
The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.
Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. (Exodus 24:15-17)
Theophany (noun): An appearance of God to a human or to a group of people, as with the
burning bush to Moses (Exod 3:4) or the pillar of cloud or fire leading
the people (Num 14:14).
Are you driven to distraction?
Frontline last week there was a report about the changes happening in
society because of the digital revolution. Even in my lifetime, I've
seen a huge shift with the rise of personal computers and the emergence
of an incredible array of digital gadgets. This particular program was
about the ever shrinking attention span of young adults as they, more
than any generation before them, have learned to multi-task with an
iPod in one hand, a cell phone in the other, and a laptop open before
them. As it turns out, fewer and fewer people have the power of
concentration and an ability to deeply focus on one task or thought for
any length of time.
I include myself in this. More than I care to admit I will try to
do at least two things at once--say, talk on the phone and read email.
At home, it's often three or more things at once as I add children into
the mix! But there have been times, very deliberate moments, when I
have realized that I am driving myself to distraction. There are times
when I am acutely aware that I need to intentionally set all of it
aside and just focus and pay attention. To what? At the least, anything
other than the beeping phone, the flashing email, and the ten other
things I was just doing at once!
This matters to me because I don't want to live a distracted life.
I want to live a focused life, a life that is attuned to the presence
of God in and through all things. I believe that God does indeed reveal
Godself to us. But in my experience, full-blown theophanies (see
definition above) are extremely rare. In my experience, God does not
thunder and shake the earth and burst things into fire as is so vividly
described in the Hebrew scriptures (and not meant to be taken
literally). Rather, God tends to reveal Godself quietly and subtly. If
we aren't able to pay attention, to really concentrate or focus, then
how will we hear the still, small voice of God? (This, of course, is
what contemplative Christians and practitioners of meditation have
understood for ages.) If we are so distracted by the incredible volume
of information instantaneously available to us on our computer, by the
sensory overload of mp3s and the internet and HDTV, how capable will we
be of perceiving the less spectacular, quieter manifestations of God?
I'm pondering how I can take this further in my own life. Maybe,
instead of fasting or giving up chocolate or coffee during Lent, I'll
"fast" from all electronics for a day. And not just fast, but pay
attention--to God, to my life, to the Spirit of God moving in the world
Blessings on you,
Prayer: God of the sound of
sheer silence, each day grant me the will to set aside the distractions
and focus my heart and mind on you--even for just a few minutes. Amen.