Listening to the Noise


Some years ago I served as a campus pastor at Oregon State University, and one of the activities we had each week was a Wednesday noon study. From time to time we would pick different topics to discuss, and sometimes we would be hooked. At one of those luncheons we were discussing the book “The Courage to Teach.” We were asked by our facilitator on that day to share an experience of a teacher who influenced our lives. Vicki Collins, an English professor, shared an experience of a teacher who changed her life during high school. She says the classroom in which her teacher was teaching was located on the side of the building where a main thoroughfare of the city ran. Traffic was constant, including the sound of emergency vehicles, throughout each day. At the beginning of each class, the teacher would complain to the students about the noise from the traffic. The emergency vehicles especially annoyed him with their sirens.

After one weekend, the teacher addressed the class at the beginning as he usually did. This day he said he wanted to apologize to the class. He told them that this weekend his wife had an emergency situation. The service that the ambulance provided saved his wife’s life and his baby’s life. He told his students, “I want to apologize because I was listening to the noise instead of thinking about the lives.”

The disciples looked at a sinner in the community; they did not see the woman who in her life was reaching out for help.

In his external world, the teacher heard noise. The experience with his wife and child caused him to inwardly see that lives were being cared for by those noisy vehicles. As a result of his experience, he gained a better perspective of his experiences with the emergency vehicles. He apologized to his students.

Friends, Jesus is helping these disciples, and us, to see that there are lives that need care. Sometimes the “noises” of selfish desires, self-centered desires, greed, or bigotry, keep us from seeing beyond the sin or the wrongly perceived experiences of life. The opportunity we have is that of seeing Jesus’ way of seeing people, seeing the possibilities for righteousness in them, forgiving them when they fall short, encouraging them to go in peace.


Isaiah Jones Jr., Seeing Beyond the Sin

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