Sounds are tricky things. They can be soothing – like the hum of a fan on a summer day. Or they can drive you mad – like the way the scream of a toddler can somehow pierce your skull through the ear canals and disable all higher brain functions.
There is music. There is noise. There is the sound of a busy street. There is the sound of your own heartbeat in a quiet room. Unless you have a hearing impairment of some kind, sound is almost inescapable. But even the hearing-impaired can “feel” the movement of millions of molecules vibrating in the air as sound propagates from its source.
We make sounds ourselves. We laugh. We scream. We sob. We swear. We belch. We shout for joy. The sounds we make can be inspiring or the subjects of jokes among friends. In fact, it is the sounds we make that can have the greatest impact on others. Our ‘sound’ relays our moods, our struggles, or even just how comfortable we are around others.
Indeed, the “sound” we make when something happens in our lives reflects how we are handling that moment. We weep when we lose someone. We laugh when someone tells us that joke we shouldn’t have laughed at. We scream when we’ve been wronged.
But sounds do not control us. In fact, we choose the sounds we make. When something happens we did not expect – some sort of change that may be the last thing we wanted – we have the choice whether to shout for joy or weep with sorrow.
In the book of Ezra, I read that after having their Temple destroyed and living many years in exile, the people of Israel had an opportunity to come home and rebuild their Temple. So they did. And as soon as the foundation was laid, the people made a “sound.” But there were two sounds:
And all the people gave a great SHOUT of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, WEPT ALOUD when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:10b-12)
This past weekend, I experienced several things that reminded me that we choose our ‘sound’.
I attended the memorial service of an old friend who had died tragically weeks ago. Yet, rising above the sound of mourning I also heard laughter as family and friends fondly remembered the life of a young man who’s quality of life was not merely found in its longevity, but in how he lived in the short time he had. People were inspired, and their lives forever altered by their contact with this young man.
I also attended a church facing a difficult time of division. And though there was weeping as the congregation grappled with the reality that some hardened hearts had forced the situation upon the church, there was also the sound of praise and prayer as they humbly submitted to go wherever God would lead them.
In both of these situations, the sound of mourning became outweighed by shouts of praise and joy. And this really got me to thinking.
When change impacts us. When an uncharted path lays ahead of us. When we remember “the way things were.” Like the people of Israel we have one of two choices: (1) We weep aloud because we miss what is gone, or (2) we shout for joy because a new foundation is being laid.
So what are you? Are you a weeper, who pines for the days gone by? Or are you a shouter, who cannot wait to see what God does next?
You have to choose. And you cannot forget that the sound you make is important, because people are hearing it. The sound spreads.
What do you want people to hear?