At a zoo tour years ago, I stood outside an okapi’s enclosure with a zookeeper who told me this story:
Okapis are sensitive creatures. They are shy and gentle animals, and they struggle particularly in situations where they are repeatedly exposed to loud noises.
The Sydney zoo is fairly close to the Sydney Opera House. One summer the opera held a series of outdoor concerts. The okapis died.
I have no idea if this is true (Google didn’t yield much, and it sure sounds apocryphal), but the story has stayed with me.
Probably because too much noise can make us all want to crawl under the bed and hide.
It’s noisy out there these days, friends.
People seem to have stopped practicing St. Francis’s encouragement to “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” and are instead yelling from opposite sides of an arena.
It turns out that too much anger and conflict and social media can actually make us sick. It might not kill us like the okapis, but it sure can drain not only our joy but our strength for action.
When there’s a lot of noise, there’s not a lot of understanding. There’s even less unity.
I find myself going back to Ephesians often these days. Back when it was written, the fledgling church in Ephesus was just starting out. There were different opinions, factions, politics, and theologies. There was competition for what ideas would win and which ones would become historical footnotes.
Paul stepped into the fray and wrote about peace. Unity. Love.
He reminded them that the bonds of baptism were stronger than those of blood, that Christ died for all, that the world was watching.
He reminded them to live worthy of their calling – one where they represented Christ and the church, bore his name, would suffer for his sake.
Paul being Paul, he didn’t mince words. He was clear about what God was calling them to do and be. From chapter four:
2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Be humble always. Be gentle always. Don’t contribute to the noise but instead seek to unite under the banner of the love of Jesus.
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit.
In noisy times, remember the clarion call of Christ, the whisper of the Holy Spirit, the quiet, ever-present wisdom of the Father.
Don’t forget that some of your friends and neighbors are like the okapi – there’s only so much noise they can handle. Maybe you are like the okapi, too.
You don’t have to win (or even weigh in on) every argument. You don’t have to engage every issue. When you quiet your soul before Jesus, when you get to know and love your neighbor, when you turn down all the noise so you can feel the pull of the Spirit, guidance will come.
As my favorite early 2000s Christian band, Switchfoot, once so eloquently sang, “If we’re adding to the noise/turn off this song. If we’re adding to the noise/turn off your stereo, radio, video.”
Is your life feeling too noisy these days? How can you practice silence and stillness, to hear from God and ready your heart for action?