“And the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made…” -“The Sound of Silence”, Simon and Garfunkel
Yesterday I was talking with Laura, and and we got on the topic of what my ideal home looks like, and by extension, what my ideal life looks like. I described to her a house, away from town, with a creek running next to it. On the creek I would have a little water wheel I could sit listen to. And I would have a large covered front porch, with a tin roof and a rocking chair. And I would sit out there, and listen to the creek, or listen to rain hitting my tin roof, or watch storms, or sunrises and sunsets, and I would read my Bible out there, and pray out there, and meditate on His words and His creation. I would maybe have a vegetable garden in which to work, and a fire pit, and maybe a few animals, sheep or goats or something of that nature. And I would live like that, teaching my children, growing closer to my wife, ministering to people in need, and praising my God.
When I told her these things, I began to get frustrated with myself. I began to ask questions. I’ve held onto this picture of my ideal life for a long, long time. This wasn’t anything new. But I looked around, at my big screen, my Xbox, my computer, my racks of DVDs, my monument to entertainment. I looked to my wife, and I said, “In my ideal life, I don’t see any of these things.” I ask myself now, why is it that if my ideal life is what I described above, I spend so much time and energy in all of this stuff? Maybe Paul Simon hit the nail on the head in “The Sound of Silence.”
Nothing in my life seems to be working towards this idyllic life I picture for myself. And at times, God seems more like the peppering in my life, than the meat of it. A dash of Him here, a dash of Him there, but hardly my main course. I desire Him to be the center, but how often do I find myself bowing before a neon god instead. By my actions, I want to be a vegetable rather than bear fruit.
Is this to say, God isn’t in my life? By no means! But I confess, I desire more of Him. I cry this out in my heart and my thoughts, but not often enough in actions. Too often, in fatigue, I turn to my neon god, rather than conversing with the living God, though He calls to me “Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” I know deep in my core, I am not living fully in the abundant life He has for me, but I know that I have come far from the man I was. Still, God has called me to do more than work, worship my neon idol, then sleep and repeat.
It’s not just my relationship with God that suffers, but my relationships with fellow human beings. So often my wife and I both turn to the neon god, rather than talking with each other, yet we both cry out our desires for more genuine time with each other. As the song goes, “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening, people writing songs that voices never share, and no one dared disturb the sound of silence.” Is this what I will teach my daughter? To never dive deeper into knowing the people in your life. To have nothing but shallow conversation between episodes of the show you’re binge watching. It’s painful that often my wife and I have to leave our home and get away from the glowing alter of our living room before we can have meaningful conversation with one another.
I’m not writing this as a bold declaration that I’ve declared war on my neon idol. Change takes time. This is merely a moment of lucidity in the absurdness of my life. A realization that I desire one thing but pursue another. A cry out for change. A desire to turn off the neon glow, and sit in darkness. Maybe with the neon glow gone, I’ll realize that the darkness of its absence is really the light of the living God, for “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” –Psalm 139:12