The millennial generation grew up in noise. The encouraging noise that we were limitless in setting goals. The disparaging noise that our youthful idealism would become cynicism at too young of an age. The noise of our peers and our mentors talking at each other, but never with each other. The brunt noise that individualism should be our focus because reliance on others and trust in leaders is a weakness. There has been a lot of noise and I don’t find it strange that in the midst of the noise my generation has tuned out the voices that want to still us, to calm us, to bring us back into communion with one another and with God.
Rachel Held Evans is one of the voices that is being heard above the rabble. While some voices want to drown out the noise by being the loudest, I sincerely believe that she is trying to quiet the noise by asking us to engage it with our indoor voices. Those who follow her blog or read her books, as we have been doing in watershed for the past three months, can recognize that she doesn’t want to be the loudest voice in the room because two people cannot have a conversation when one cannot be heard. It isn’t that God doesn’t speak to us, it’s that we have forgotten how to still ourselves to hear God. We have forgotten how to quiet ourselves to hear God speaking through others. The church community and millennials have not forsaken or outgrown each other (as opponents on both sides will say of the other). We have, however, let the noise make us forget that we belong to each other and that being in community requires a certain level of trust, dialogue, and cooperation that is hard to achieve alone.
Much of the noise that we heard was intended to make us stronger, smarter, and better prepared members of society. Perhaps it went too far and we forgot that in order to be function in society we need to actually be part of it. My favorite Old Testament verse is Exodus 14:14, “The Lord your God will fight for you, but if you will only keep still.” It is a collective you. If it is the collective body that God speaks to and through, how will we hear if part of the church is absent?
She challenges us to confront virtues the church has espoused for ages, but are misconstrued in our vernacular. Gentleness is not being waif-like, but being strong enough to treat others with care. Doubt is not an absence of faith, but part of a beautiful and on-going conversation with God about what it means to live faithfully when you do not have all the answers. Community is not an idealized group of people who have it all worked out, but a group of broken people trying to support one another.
Rachel Held Evans is a voice reminding us that our greatest strengths are not found when we stand alone. They are found when we struggle together to quiet ourselves and listen for God in the midst of the noise.
By Claire Hein Blanton
Claire Hein Blanton is a young adult at South Main Baptist Church that joined while a college student at Rice University. Claire is actively involved in our Young Professionals Sunday School Community and is currently teaching at watershed, a Tuesday night bible study at South Main.