Each spring, as women gather for an annual retreat at a local camp, I prepare a packet of pillow treats. This year’s version was a small blue box which contained a chocolate mint and a pair of earplugs.
Sleeping in a room with others whose sleep habits are different from our own can range from unsettling to nerve wracking to disturbing, and yet most of these women find that it’s worth the disruption every time – to be able to experience God’s presence there in a way that they simply aren’t able to on their own. A pair of soft, foamy earplugs can ease the intrusion of night-sounds from others and can enable us to rest in community – even if everything about that community isn’t ideal.
Earplugs act as a buffer between our senses and the noises made by those we do life with, making it possible to live with the distractions around us.
My family attended a concert last fall in the gymnasium of a small local college. The headliners were the real draw, but the warm-up band was one we were also eager to see (a new band formed from a long-time favorite group, recently separated). We had an opportunity to sit in the second row from the stage, so we took it! This was the new band’s very first concert and we weren’t going to miss out! But as the music began to rattle the metal rafters of the drafty old gym, my ears began to pop. Then hurt. Then sting. We stuck it out for a couple of songs but ended up moving all the way to the back wall of the room to protect our ears, albeit too little, too late. The damage was done and my ears hurt for days afterward. Earplugs would have been a good idea.
Earplugs protect our hearing and minimize the damage caused by poorly mixed sound and the ridiculously loud-living of others.
It can be excruciatingly difficult to Want What You’ve Got while lying sleepless next to someone who is snoring the night away. It can be painful to Want What You’ve Got when what sounded like a great idea ends up sounding like something that no human ear ought to be called upon to endure. And it can be awfully hard to Want What You’ve Got when the words and choices and actions of those around you blast loudly through your own efforts to live a peaceful, well-ordered life – and yet, here we are. All in this together.
Earplugs offer a subtle, unseen way for us to be proactive in creating harmony in a dissonant world (unless you go for the hot pink or neon orange variations).
Earplugs can create space in our jam-packed living conditions so that we can think and rest and move about without alienating those closest to us whose habits and volume threaten to create discord.
James 3:17-18 says it this way:
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (The Message)
If you’re finding it difficult to Want What You’ve Got while living with (and sleeping with) some intensely distracting sounds, remember this…
If you have to wear earplugs in order to sleep at night, you are in relationship! You are not alone! Healthy, robust connections with others aren’t accidental – they only happen when we do the hard work of getting along and treating each other with dignity and respect (and by choosing to quietly put the earplugs in place, as needed).
Daily Questions: What are the life-noises that tend to drive you crazy (think actual noise as well as felt noise – like people’s opinions, attitudes, actions, etc.)? What or who is the source of this noise? Is enduring this noise necessary in order to keep relationships/community intact? If yes, what might your ‘earplugs’ look like? What gentle, subtle choices can you make to buffer against the loudness around you? If no, maybe it’s time to cut some cords or turn down the volume on some of your personal live-feeds in order to Want What You’ve Got.