Today I told my counselor that when I feel overwhelmed I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and they instantly slow me down. Not as much background noise. Not as many distractions.
We live in this strange world where you can watch a cooking show clip followed by a wedding slideshow followed by a political video followed by some panda bears rolling down a hill in a matter of seconds. We scroll, and we let that blue light fill our eyes, and the message that fills our minds is that faster and newer and more complicated is the way to go. But a few years ago, I decided to move to a slow part of the country to see if I could get some of that quiet I’d been craving.
Around these parts, there’s a whole lot of history. My house is fairly new as it was built in 1900 and only leans a little to the west. Every morning, I have to push my bed up against the wall because my movements just getting in and out of bed manages to slide it down toward the center of the room. When new people move to this area, I want to show them around so they can get oriented: “This here is the oldest bridge in the country! This here is the oldest seaport in the country! And then we turn down a long gravel road that leads to a barn at the heart of the oldest farm in America.”
The farm stands in the town of Ipswich, and when I step out of my car, it feels like coming home. Perhaps this is because it’s been consistently farmed for centuries. The idea that ground has been tilled and planted and harvested since the 1630s is hard to comprehend, but if this place is still here, perhaps the world isn’t as noisy and chaotic as I’d thought. There are places where things stay put.
One afternoon on a walk around the farmland, my friend Ana and I came across a field of sheep. There they stood with blank looks on their faces, seemingly unimpressed by our presence. They weren’t in a contained space, really, just standing on the trail. We walked right up to them and they simply stared at us. We tried to call them closer, and they didn’t budge. When we moved in closer, they backed away. Giving up on bonding with the sheep any further, we headed home when suddenly we heard something over the hill.
It was the shepherd. At least, that’s what I figured out really quickly because he shouted out, “Hey! Sheep!” from roughly 200 yards away.
Immediately, even desperately, they stiffened their necks and turned their heads toward his direction. They didn’t just look; they started to move. They began walking and eventually running toward a nearby gate — every single one of them. We stood there transfixed as they hustled their little wooly bodies toward the voice of the shepherd.
I’d read that passage of Scripture so many times that it automatically ran through my mind: “ . . . the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5 ESV).
You can’t hear His voice when you’re making a whole bunch of noise. When you’ve listened to too many voices, including your own, that aren’t the right ones — even if they are good ones — you’re going to miss Jesus’ call.
Some days, it feels like God’s too far away for me to hear Him, but when I open Scripture, I remember the low and strong voice I heard that day over the hills. I remember how the sheep didn’t move toward me, but they ran toward him. And I can breathe a little easier when I take the time to listen by living a life rooted in God’s Word.
We can’t know the tone of His call if we’re not used to hearing it over and over again. So when the world feels loud and things are moving too quickly, slow down, friend. Open the Word and listen to His voice until you can hear it clearly, even from 200 yards away.Leave a Comment