I can’t handle noise anymore.
In the spring of 2022, I had unexpected health problems that left me with residual effects on my nervous system. All of a sudden, I started experiencing the same deficits that my boys, who have lived with nervous system dysfunction and Autism for years, had experienced most of their lives. One of the most disappointing symptoms was my inability to process noisy environments. Loud meetings, restaurants, multiple groups of friends chatting—all now triggered fatigue, confusion, and even a nice case of Bells Palsy. The sound of a paper bag crinkling, a radio playing in the background, a loud movie. The list went on and on. I was beyond frustrated that the events I had loved so much, visiting with friends, eating out, listening, and singing music, and even church worship had become something I had to choose wisely if I had anything else at all to do that day. Because I could no longer attend these things and accomplish anything else except an afternoon of resting in quiet. It changed everything.
Including and especially how I viewed my definition of church. I felt like a backslider watching online services where I could control the volume. I had been a faithful attender. I had been an elder. I had been as involved as I could get. Then this. I found myself and my nervous system overwhelmed and exhausted by things I used to handle with ease. The guilt forced me to start evaluating what it meant to be a Christian. It forced me to make choices to let go of things that I thought were important and start defining what really was. I had to make some tough and not very popular decisions, laying aside what people would think for what I knew to be true. Within this process, I found out my new strategies applied to more places than I thought.
I was sharing my frustrations about my health with my son one day, since the noise issue had been one he had battled with a long time. In an effort to comfort my worries, he suggested maybe we just go to a quieter service or even find a quieter church. As my parenting Barbie kicked it to discourage the instinct to just replace something so important so easily, my own answer to him brought me a revelation I didn’t expect.
I reminded him that people changed the way and where they worshiped all the time based on some one thing, some struggle, some difficulty or some unhappiness—but that wasn’t always the answer.
“There is always going to be noise somewhere, especially if there are humans. You just have to find a way to serve where you can in the quiet and still leave the noise behind.”
Let’s review. See if you hear what I heard.
I just couldn’t handle the noise anymore. Especially at church. What I could tolerate before was not an option anymore. I found myself overwhelmed and exhausted by things I used to handle with ease. It forced me to start evaluating what it meant to be a Christian. It was time to make choices to let go of things that I thought were important and start defining what really was. I would have to make some tough and not very popular decisions, laying aside what people would think for what I knew to be true.
This wasn’t about the worship music anymore. Our conversation had brought to mind the other noise at church. The distractions. The busyness. The drama. The complaining. The backstabbing. Suddenly a lot of Paul’s words started flashing through my mind. My soul was not just weary from the sounds—I was tired of all the noise that was keeping me from attending to Jesus.
There is always going to be noise somewhere, especially if there are humans, I had said. Well, seeing as how the church is humans, I am going to guess just going somewhere else wouldn’t solve the kind of problems I was tired of. You just have to find a way to serve where you can in the quiet and still leave the noise behind, I had said.
The next words from my son were already running like a ticker tape in my head as he asked them.
Best. Question. Ever.
It took me a minute to produce an answer. I could only think of one. Find Jesus.
You do what Jesus did. You focus on the mission. You show up. You stay away from all the noise that distracts and exhausts you. You choose wisely what you do that day. When the noise finds you, don’t tolerate it. You keep your eye on why you are there.
This changes everything. It then is no longer about where you are serving . . . but how.
We will never find a place that doesn’t have noise, so we have to find Jesus within it. That is how. One person at a time. We don’t need a quieter church. We need a quieter spirit. We don’t need different people or better programs or different preachers or more money. We need one person to love another person because Jesus loved them. Simple. Quiet. Complete.
I don’t think Jesus liked the noise either. I bet it made Him tired too.