Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” – John 14:27
An anechoic chamber is a room designed to completely absorb reflections of sound. Orfield Labs in South Minneapolis has an anechoic chamber that has held the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Quietest Room” since 2004. The room is built with fiberglass acoustic wedges 3.3-feet thick, and it has double walls of insulated steel and one-foot thick concrete. Measured at -9 decibels, the room is so quiet that you can hear your blood flowing. The silence is so maddening it can cause hallucinations. The longest anyone has been able to bear the room was 45 minutes.
When I first heard of this room, my thoughts went immediately to a missionary who shared with me what he thought hell would be like. The picture he painted was that of a person alone in total darkness forever. So often classic images of hell portray a large number of people writhing in agony in an inferno. Whether the image of fire is literal or metaphorical is one issue. But who is to say that hell is a communal experience, as opposed to one of total isolation. A student of the Bible could go either way on this question. I recently read an article in which CS Lewis was reported to have said something like, “Hell is no one but yourself, forever and ever.” What a terrifying thought!
In today’s “rat race”, it is not unusual to hear someone say they’re longing for a little “peace and quiet.” But taken to the extreme of an anechoic chamber, that expression may deserve reconsideration. What makes this room so horrific, and why don’t deaf people go insane like those who are in an anechoic chamber too long? Well first off, being in an anechoic chamber is not like being deaf. A person who is totally deaf cannot hear anything with their ears, but they can still feel sound. Sound is a physical thing and we all feel it with our body. And while the sound we feel might not be an adequate basis for communication, if it is coming from outside our own bodies, then at least we know we are not alone in the universe.
Secondly, while a truly deaf person cannot hear anything with his/her ears, a person in an anechoic chamber can at least hear their own body. That person will begin to hear their internal organs and blood flow. The rhythmic sound of the heartbeat can be very disturbing psychologically. The person in an anechoic chamber can hear their own body, but nothing else. Unlike the deaf person who feels sound and can sign or touch others, the person in an anechoic chamber has the sense of total isolation.
Could it be that the horrific aspect of such a quiet room is not the silence but the sense of being completely alone with yourself? Could it be that the anechoic chamber is proof that we were created for interaction and relationship with others . . . and to be denied that need is a terrifying experience?
I have a pastor friend who use to build a “Quiet Time” into his men’s retreats. But he has since discovered that many men today are uncomfortable with unmitigated silence and inactivity. He now calls it “Time Alone with God.” If we were designed for relationship, then we must be aware that a relationship with our creator is at the center of that design. Personally, I love “peace and quiet.” But I have learned that Christ is the only One who can bring peace to the quiet. He is the One who brings meaning to relationship. We all know what it feels like to feel lonely in a crowd.
The world often thinks of peace as the absence of conflict. But the person who has been in an anechoic chamber for 45 minutes is feeling intolerable conflict, without anyone else in the room. Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the presence of Christ. And He is the only one who can make us at peace, not only with those around us, but with ourselves.
NOTE: We have postponed the launch of our weekly devotional using The HOPE Study Guide. We plan to begin our journey through the “Story of His Promise for All People” on October 29th. We’d love to have you, and everyone you know, join us at this blog site.