“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” ~J. I. Packer

What could provide more solace of soul, or so I thought, than attending Ash Wednesday service at our community’s Anglican Church? My anticipated retreat into introspection began as expected with priests advancing ceremoniously up the center aisle on their way to the altar. I stood with the other communicants in relative silence, and took my seat as the Deacon instructed. It was at that moment that the sacred space was shattered by the cries of a small child, followed by similar cacophony in stereo from across the sanctuary. I mentally allowed the initial vocal flurry to pass nonplussed thinking the worst was behind me, and returned my attention to the serious matter at hand—namely, sinful transgression and its remedy in the Cross. As I listened intently to the reading from the Old Testament, a whirring sound kicked in ahead of me and to my left. I sat on the third pew from the front, and seated just in front of me was a man far more senior than me. I had not noticed it before, but the man was connected by plastic tubing to a breathing apparatus that emitted an artificial cadence of exhaling and inhaling. I struggled to regain mental and emotional composure so that I could follow the New Testament reading, but as if on cue, the children raised their voices again from behind. I almost laughed out loud when sirens sounded off just outside the church as the minister ceremoniously began reading the Gospel selection. At the selfsame moment that Jesus spoke to us from Matthew’s Gospel, small children screamed, a man gasped for mechanical breath, and sirens blared en route to someone’s emergency. My impulse was to bolt and escape to the serenity of my Jeep, but I forced myself to remain. I leaned toward the rector and by God’s grace was able to hear from the Lord despite the seeming chaos that surrounded. From the center of the storm I sensed an important truth—The Christ-life is much less about retreat than it is learning to lean toward Him and detect His voice despite all distraction to the contrary.

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