A Quiet Heart in a Noisy World

I was having trouble getting to a “sabbathy” place on a hike recently.  I had taken on some new responsibilities at church that week, my girls were about to come home (one from a vacation in Europe, the other from a year at school), and my mind kept going to those places.  Most of all, I was wearing anti-snake shin guards for the first time – I hike alone, it’s snake season here, and my wife worries about me, so I sacrifice fashion for security and a happy spouse.  But I was sure that I looked dopey, and it was distracting.  Yeah, I’m that vain.

I stopped after a couple of miles to do a little reading, and came across a passage about the value of a quiet heart.  Ironically, as I was reading the book, I was being bombarded by those flies that will give their all in order to penetrate your nose and ears – I hate those things.  But they made me realize that some obstacles to a quiet heart are external, like the flies, and my new church responsibilities, the return of my daughters, and the dopey-looking shinguards.  In order to achieve quietness of heart, I have to find a way to lay aside the external distractions.

As I gained altitude, the flies went away.  But I came across a six-foot rattlesnake blocking the trail, and he took objection to my throwing rocks at him (yeah, forget fashion, I was glad to have the shinguards!).  He rattled at me as he slithered away, only the second time in my life I’ve heard that unforgettable sound in the wild.  For the next 45 minutes or so, every branch and every lizard on the trail was a potential snake.  This anxiety became an internal distraction that made my heart a noisy place, re-hearing that rattle over and over.  In order to achieve quietness of heart, I have to overcome the internal distractions, too.

An hour later, I found myself in some of the most beautiful oak forest I have ever seen.  I was hiking in shade, there was a cool breeze, my IPod was cranking out some of my favorite songs, and the worship moments were rich and inspiring.  It became one of my better walks with God.  My heart was finally quiet, but I had to overcome distractions to get there.

What’s true on a Sabbath hike is true every day, isn’t it?  God said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength” (30:15).  Repentance and rest lead to salvation, quietness and trust lead to strength.  Wow.

I want the kind of strength that comes from a quiet heart.  Because it doesn’t come naturally, I find I need to pursue quietness of heart, not just on Sabbath days, but every day.  I won’t always have a shady oak forest to help, but I’m committed to finding other ways to get there.

That Isaiah passage ends ominously, as God condemns Israel with the phrase, “But you were not willing.”  What would He say about us?  Are we finding our strength in quietness and trust?

Lord, I’m willing. I need You to make me able.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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8 Responses to A Quiet Heart in a Noisy World

  1. Steve Rowe says:

    Amen! Thanks for the good word!

  2. Stefanie Johnson says:

    Thank you, Pastor Mike, for sharing your Sabbath Thoughts. I, too, will be working on gaining a quiet heart.

  3. debra petrella says:

    thank you mike for sharing a common issue for many, just to be able to focus and leave the world behind…. we love u Rich and Deb

  4. Laurie orman says:

    Pastor Mike, Is it possible to explore and share the Sabbath rest concept and experience with a spouse?

    • Yeah, Laurie, it definitely is. I pattern my approach to Sabbath after Eugene Petersen, who writes in the book Working the Angles that he does Sabbath hikes with his wife. They pray together before they start, hike together (though not talking much), then compare notes on their experience when they stop for lunch. My wife can’t hike due to some physical limitations, so we don’t do it together. But she is often enjoying a home-based sabbath while I’m away hiking, and we compare notes when I get home. There are books about Sabbath for the whole family, how to get kids involved, including special meal times, family outings, etc. Personal preference will drive a lot of it, but there are all kinds of possibilities. Once you get away from a Pharasaical, rules-based approach to Sabbath, there’s lots of liberty to try different things.

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