Last Sunday the New York Knicks hosted the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden for a Sunday matinee of basketball. The Knicks have been desperate for good PR, given that a star player has been feuding with the front office and a former player recently had to be forcibly escorted by security out of the arena, so maybe that’s why they decided to try something new Sunday: a first half without any noise except for the sounds of the game.
At the start of the game, the jumbotron displayed a message that read: “The first half of today’s game will be presented without music, video, or in-game entertainment so you can experience the game in its purest form. Enjoy the sounds of the game.”
This decision has been met with both praise and criticism. The loudest voice speaking against it was Warriors forward Draymond Green, who said, “It was pathetic. It was ridiculous. It changed the flow of the game, it changed everything.” I have to agree with him on that last point. Silence does change everything. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Why is it so hard for us to embrace silence and stillness?
After all, there are benefits to both. What struck me about the Knicks’ jumbotron message was its suggestion that silence would help the crowd to “experience the game in its purest form.” Stripping away the glitz and gimmicks of the modern NBA experience allowed people to focus on what brought them there in the first place: basketball.
God calls us to strip away all of the distractions that get in the way of an intimate relationship with him.
I work as a student coach for an NAIA basketball team in the Chicago area. Some of the most memorable games I’ve attended were not played in packed, loud arenas, but rather in a rented recreation center or an empty gym. The less distractions there are, the more you can really pay attention to the beautiful game of basketball. This was the Knicks’ goal, but off-court gimmicks have become the norm in sporting events. Except for basketball purists, no one wants to only watch basketball. They want a bigger experience.
Something similar can happen in our spiritual lives. God calls us to strip away all of the distractions and the things of the world that get in the way of meeting him. Whether it is work, recreation, aspirations, or even other relationships, many distractions get in the way of truly seeing God. Even things that seem to be seeking God can distract us. We can listen to the one pastor we like, listen to the one Christian band we like, or read the one Christian author we like, sometimes to the point that those “off-court” experiences of Christianity dominant our understanding of God. How long before we've encased ourselves in a pre-packaged bubble that has no space for an intimate relationship with him?
The Lord calls us to be still and silent in his presence. In Psalm 46 we are told, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The rest of the psalm is about the strength of the Lord and how powerful He is. For us to recognize that, we sometimes must submit to stillness and silence.
Famed preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator, as when we learn the emptiness of all besides.” It is easy to forget that the core of an NBA game itself is the sport of basketball, not the experience of being in a place like Madison Square Garden, with its blaring music, audience giveaways, and fan contests. Similarly, it is easy to forget that the core of our life is our one-on-one relationship with God, not all of the other distractions that come with modern life or can be added to the religious experience. Just as the Knicks wanted those in attendance to have an intimate experience with the game on the court, God calls us to be still and focus on our intimate relationship with him.