April 17, 2015 at 9:19am
The Setting:

A storey-building on the street adjacent mine has been occupied for the last four or so years by a church, or as I found out last night, two different churches. Noise has always been an issue; but this week has topped them all. Since Monday, we have been besieged by music, shouting, tongues; you name it (I wonder if my love for the worship song ‘Wrap me in Your arms’ can ever be restored; having been serenaded an off-key rendition for at least 10 mins straight- all this in the midst of dumsor. Lawd!). I had, each day, sent our housekeeper over to ask them to turn it down; which they ‘graciously’ did; until last night, when they simply did not.

I. WAS. ALL. KINDS. OF. FURIOUS

and

I decided to go over there myself.

Bad combination.

So I get there and meet, among other people, the sound director; whose demeanour was a study in apathy, more or less telling me he doesn’t think his church is noisy (note: we were standing in the street and every syllable of the music was clearly distinguishable). You see, I was already ticked off, to put it mildly; but this last bit of straw severed my only surviving nerve. Somewhere in my mind, an edict was issued: “Release the Kraken!” Boy, did I give the brethren hell.

I yelled at them; threatened them with police, a court injunction; stormed up the stairs and threatened to address the congregation. In hindsight, it is almost comical how about 4 young men formed a human wall to talk, argue, reason this one small girl out of entering the church hall- to do what koraa? Really, what was I going to do? #Occupythechurch. Hmm. The only good thing I can report from this episode is that it never got physical.

Realisation Dawns:

So in the aftermath of my display, I am here dealing with conflicting emotions: elation, self-justification, mortification, guilt, shame. Even after my ‘visit’, they only turned the sound down a notch or two, but I still felt much, much better. I am now realising it was not about making them bring the noise down. I wanted an outlet for the frustration that had been building up within me disturbance after disturbance- and last night was my opportunity to make some noise of my own. But just when I start to feel smug, two thoughts dawn on me:

1. I am a hypocrite.
2. I am a Christian- and supposed to act like one.

The hypocrisy first. For almost all my undergrad years, I was a staunch member of a Christian fellowship group. A very, very charismatic fellowship group. Our meetings were usually held in the evenings (Sundays and sometimes, weeknights as well) in a building just behind the residential blocks of our hostel… and noise was second nature to us. I repeat, we used to meet at night just behind students’ rooms- students, whose primary occupation is studying- and we were not shy about using microphones and speakers; whether or not everyone else was interested in our activities. Oh, I almost forgot- dawn prayer meetings. Each weekday at 5am (or was it 4:30am?), we would meet in the car park; in front of said residential block to pray. Not a bad idea- except that we would sing and pray out loud. Can anyone say ‘irony’?

I deserve every off-key wail my neighbours produce in the name of worship.

Having been on the receiving end of the noise, believe you me, I would do it so differently if I could do it over. Now, I am sorry. Too late, I empathise with the hundreds of students who endured the noise all those years. But the question I keep asking myself is: did I not notice, or did I just not care back then? I don’t recall any student responding to our noise the way I did last night; but I do remember my roommates commenting once or twice about being woken up by the dawn prayers. I respect them so much more now, for their graciousness. In my immature mind, I must have thought we were doing everyone else a favour- drawing them into prayer and fellowship with us- never mind that God had given them free will to worship Him at other hours of the day. Never mind verses like Philippians 4:5 (NLT: “Let others see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon”).

To all sound directors of all churches who read this (if you know one, please share this note with him/her): as much as you want the surround sound effect in the church hall, please spare a thought for the people who live close to your church:
Some have hectic careers and need the peace and quiet at home;
Some have babies and children who can’t sleep in noisy environments;
Some get migraines that are triggered when you suddenly start yelling and singing in the early morning;
Some have exams to study for;
Some pay incredibly high rent for the places they live and deserve the quiet just for that reason
Please take my word for it – or knock on a few doors and ask – the last thing people ever feel like doing, when your music invades the privacy of their bedrooms, is joining you in worship. In fact, I distinctly remember moments last night when I looked into those young men’s faces and felt hatred because of their hardheartedness; God forgive me.

***

Now, the second part of the realisation: I’m a Christian- or more specifically, I am supposed to behave as Christ did (unrepentant me replays last night next to the scene of Jesus storming the temple; but I know it’s not the same thing :). What results did my anger yield? Really. Did they stop making so much noise? No (the service went on well past 10pm). The only realisation they must have drawn from their encounter is that they had one crazy neighbour- and even that didn’t daunt them (brings to mind the Whatsapp proverb: “No matter how hot your temper is, it cannot boil yam”). And no matter what they did wrong:

James 1:19-20 (NLT) ” … You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”.

Is James dialling my number or what? I could give you the history of my lifelong battle with my temper- but that’s another note. All I have to say, especially to my fellow hot-tempered Christians is: BEWARE. Rage is not a convenient little weapon for getting your way. It is a wily, potent force that will knock you off your feet and turn situations upside down before you know what hit you. Today, I am very reserved about asking the question, “How could those South Africans do that to fellow Africans?” because then I see myself storming up those stairs all over again. What was I thinking? But then again, throwing a temper tantrum is probably like being drunk – you never admit to yourself you’re out of control- or that your actions are just plain wrong.

I could so have handled last night’s episode better, I could have had a win-win situation, probably made a friend or two or even obtained a phone number I could call whenever they were being noisy. All I got out of it is the grudging admission that I acted the fool- that and a healthy respect for The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).