IVP - Strangely Dim - Loud Time

October 7, 2005

Loud Time

By David A. Zimmerman

I hear all kinds of noise about the "quiet time." It's something of a boundary marker—we prove our Christian faith by how regularly we steal away for private prayer and Bible study; the longer our "quiet time" is, the more spiritual we are. I hear stories about people like Mother Teresa being "too busy not to spend at least four hours a day in prayer." I see a lot of people spell it with capital letters—"Quiet Time," like "Holy Communion"—just to give it some extra gravitas.

Advocates of the "quiet time" appeal to the times when Jesus went off by himself to a quiet place to pray and think. Jesus made major decisions in moments such as these, it's true. But what's most notable to me about Jesus' quiet times is how little ink they get in the Bible. Much more attention in the Gospels goes to Jesus' "loud time."

Now, loud time doesn't share the mystique of a quiet time. Where would you more likely expect to find God anyway—in a cave or at a circus? But we have to ask ourselves what classification most of life falls under—quiet or loud—and the answer is quite simply loud. We are active, communal people, and solitude cannot by itself fulfill our needs.

Of course, I have nothing against the quiet time. Some of my most meaningful moments have been alone with God. But then, I have to say that, don't I? A more mind-blowing statement would be that some of my most meaningful moments have been with others and God. God, after all, is not Snuffleupagus—some imaginary friend who goes into hiding when other people come into the room. In fact, Jesus tells us that "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." God wants to be found by us—as many of us as are willing.

God speaks to us through others, and he speaks to others through us. A greater awareness of God's presence and guidance comes through a devotional engagement in conversation, listening for God's voice in the voices we're met with. But it's not only the sound of voices that characterizes loud time. As much as Jesus' major decisions were made in quiet, God's major interventions in history were noisy. Witness the parties that commenced after the Jews crossed the Red Sea, the annual feast of Purim and the mayhem surrounding Pentecost. There are many, many more such occasions of celebration, and each occurrence is thick with spiritual meaning and loud as they come.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that gentle Jesus is meek and mild while God the Father is raucous and unruly. Jesus could be as noisy as the next guy: he raised a ruckus in the temple area and shouted down the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Much of Jesus' ministry was conducted out loud, following in the great tradition of prophets from Amos to Zephaniah.

To be frank, quiet time without loud time would be meaningless. What kind of life would it be if nobody said nothing all the time? Of course loud time without quiet time would be likewise untenable: I would lose my mind if I lived, moved and had my being in an arcade or a casino. But whether we are quiet and alone or loud and in the thick of it, we have this promise: we are always accompanied by the one who will never leave or forsake us. And that is cause for all kinds of noise.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 7, 2005 9:59 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments

"What kind of life would it be if nobody said nothing all the time?"

Ummmmm. . . . A (flavor of) monastic life? :-)

Great post! It reminded me of a retreat I went on once where the retreat organizer handed out the schedule and at the beginning of each day he'd mistyped the heading and so we were actually scheduled to have "Quite Time". We thought it would be more fun to pronounce quite as "Kwee-tay" time.

So now I can't go on a retreat which has QT scheduled and not think, "Oh, good, we have kwee-tay time!"

Comment by: Macon at October 7, 2005 9:19 PM

My apologies to the monastics. I made a hasty last-minute edit to a line that on reflection sounded as though deaf people got no reason to live--which is by no means my position. Mad props to the monks though, and to all the dear authors who write about them.

Technically, of course, by using a double-negative I avoided the problem altogether. By nobody saying nothing, we all wind up saying everything. Ha!

Comment by: Dave at October 10, 2005 8:14 AM

Macon reminded me of a story I read in Karen Mains's The God Hunt: a woman often types "l" when she means to type "r." So when she's being particularly reflective she inadvertently types: "This is very important. I must play about it."

Cute huh?

Comment by: Dave at October 10, 2005 8:16 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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