A Quiet Life
In a culture that’s filled with noise, I’ve been thinking about how to live a quiet life.
I was reminded that a friend named Allen wrote a memoir in 2016 titled “A Quiet Life.” So I took some time this week to read a chunk of it. And it helped.
The book will probably never be published. Publication wasn’t Allen’s intent. It’s a gift for his [now adult] kids, hoping they will read it someday and better understand him.
As one of only a handful of people who has read it, I know it to be a glimpse into Allen’s mind as he owns his mistakes and works through the labels that have been hung on him as he deals with mental illness.
His memoir, and this notion of the quiet life, is based on 1 Thessalonians 4 (ESV), in which the apostle Paul offers some advice for that particular church: “We urge you, brothers, to do this more and more [meaning, to continue to love one another well], and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you …”
I really went down a rabbit hole this week when I started studying this passage with Allen’s memoir in mind.
When you look up the Greek word Paul used for “quietly,” it means “to keep still (intransitively), that is, refrain from labor, meddlesomeness or speech: - cease, hold peace, be quiet, rest.”
As I’m wont to do when seeing a word such as “meddlesomeness,” I had to look it up. The dictionary says meddling means “to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly.”
Today we’d probably call such a person a buttinsky.
Putting all this together, I’m led to believe Paul wanted the following for believers in Thessalonica (and presumably elsewhere): In the context of love, he wanted them to embrace the quiet life by staying out of each other’s business until invited, to focus on their own stuff, and to work with their hands.
Let’s explore “invitation” in this context though. It really intrigues me. And I think we can find gold if we dig deep enough.
In Allen’s memoir (I have his permission to share the following snippets), he offers his readers (again, his offspring) an invitation, but they’ll need to work a little to open it.
“I am trying to live a quiet life and to mind my own business,” he writes. “I keep a lot inside. I always have. Is it healthy? Probably not, but it is what I know how to do. By writing short sentences and telling crisp anecdotes I am giving you a glimpse into my world and only a glimpse. The way to go deeper, the way to tap into some of my immense emotional pain, is to extract it from the poetry.”
Allen sprinkled his poems throughout his memoir. They are about truth, love, justice, pride, hope, peace, goodness, patience, faith, beauty, and more, including a metaphorical bipolar middle linebacker he knows, hates and respects.
Allen is no different than any of us, in that he wants to be understood. But beyond that, as a Christian, he wants the redemptive nature and work of God to be understood. And I think Allen did that beautifully in the final paragraphs of his book (and if you’re a classic rock connoisseur, or maybe just a classic rock dabbler, you’ll recognize his references to “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas).
“I can say with confidence that my mission in life is to carry on as a wayward son,” he writes (as a fifty-something-year old). “I will try to not be wayward anymore but I also must accept the things I cannot change about choices I have made. I am wayward yet trusting in God for healing. I am trusting Him to take my broken pieces and somehow make a beautiful piece of art, maybe a mosaic with bits of glass or a repaired sculpture.
“As He repairs He tells me to not cry anymore. I have cried as a wayward husband and father over sins that have destroyed trust. I will now trust for something better and cry no more. What can be better? It starts with trust. It builds with peace. It multiplies with the fear of God.
“Surely heaven waits for [our] family.”
I know I’ll get email from people who want to read the memoir. I talked to Allen this week and, as I suspected, he says the work is too personal to be published (or shared any further). Instead, he says he’s still choosing to live a quiet life.
As we spoke, he was on the road, planning to meet one of his sons that evening to watch a basketball game on TV. Sounds like the perfect way to live quietly, doesn’t it?
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