Press Pause

Nov 2, 2013

Selah (Hebrew: ‫סֶלָה‬‎, also transliterated as selāh) is a word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible – 71 times in the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk – and is a difficult concept to translate. It is probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like “stop and listen”. Selah can also be used to indicate that there is to be a musical interlude at that point in the Psalm.[1] The Amplified Bible translates selah as “pause, and think of that”. ‬‬

I don’t care about the Red Sox. Most likely you don’t care that I don’t care because if you’re like my husband and two sons, you are riding the wave of their victory. And that is why I bend my “no radio in the house (unless you’re wearing headphones)”rule during the World Series, because the guy I live with and love a lot, does care about the Red Sox. Well, he cares if they win.

So last week I was trying to distract myself from the nonstop banter of the sports commentators. But something that happened at Game Four caught my attention. Right before the sixth inning, they asked the crowd to “stand and pause” for cancer.

It was almost comical listening to radio announcers describe this, because first of all, nothing is happening except standing and silence, which they talked through the whole time, and because they get paid to make everything sound at least interesting if not jaw-droppin’ amazing, I got to hear them try to build a story around the “pause”. It wasn’t too convincing. It reminded me of that Dali Lama birthday card that shows him opening an empty box and exclaiming, “Just what I always wanted! Nothing!”

“It’s all about the fans,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business. “Cancer is a disease that touches everyone, and baseball wants its fan base to know — we want the country to know, we want the world to know — that we care. I think that taking a moment during the World Series is the ultimate statement that people care. The umpires, the players, the fans, the executives — everybody’s connected to someone who was ravaged by the disease. So it’s personal to everyone, which makes it a more personal moment to the industry, and all the more meaningful.”

More meaningful than what? Don’t misunderstand me. I lost my dad to cancer at a young age and I am also a “cancer survivor”. It’s a horrid disease and I applaud any advance against it. But what is the purpose of thousands of baseball fans standing up together and shutting up together for less than a minute?

It makes me wonder if this is a trend we might be seeing more of in our culture. Let’s face it; we don’t really want to face, let alone touch each other. And the whole relationship thing is so difficult and complex. Why not just “friend” me, text me or shoot me an email? If we MUST send a card, thank God Hallmark can say it all for you in a flowery font for just $5. Just don’t forget to sign it.

At the gym I go to, the instructor often finishes her class with a relaxation and meditation time. I immediately revert back to when I was six years old and the teacher made us take out our mats and nap. I try to relax and think about Jesus but I’m on a dirty floor with a bunch of sweaty women and I start to fidget and think about what’s for lunch, and how much my knees hurt. I see the point; let’s stop and pause before we run out the door to check our phones. But suggesting we can attain peace by flinging our minds into outer space or absorbing some type of generic cosmic energy seems hardly worth the time. Can I get up now?

A pause is essential. In music, it’s called a ‘rest’ and it’s just as critical as the note that precedes or follows. That’s why I started this with the word Selah. You’ll see it at the end of a beautiful verse in the Bible and it’s like the author is saying, Stop. Think about this. It’s a breathier form of Amen, entreating you to bask in the meaning of it all, if only for a moment. An interlude.

Today I called in sick to work. I have a cold, which is waning, but I worked with it yesterday and it was gross, womdering if my nose was going to explode all over some sick or hurt person. They deserve better. So I removed myself today, slept in a bit, then took Rosie, my dog, out in the woods, to pray and walk like we do. Well, I doubt she prays but I think she loves it when I do because she stays near to me. She even tolerates my singing.

The wind was wild and gusty, and the clouds were high up and a crazy mix of dark thunder-heads and wispy little white puffs, making the sun shining through look dramatic, especially against the orange and gold and red leaves whipping through the air, reflecting the light like little flames. I thought, this is so beautiful. I want to hold it, because tomorrow, lots of trees will look bare and still, then daylight savings…winter is very near. I stood at the edge of the pond, watching Rosie splash through the beach, taking gulps of water as she walked, and looked up. God seemed very near at that instant. It was a pause, the kind I need more of.

I don’t think the MLB cares about me any more than I care about them. I’m concerned that the Pause taken at the fourth game of the World Series will become a new social custom. Name a social cause and take a shallow bow to it, together. Pause for world hunger, or drug addiction or suicide. We can say we care, and then we can sit back down and get on with what matters most. Again, I’m not against baseball or having fun. But will we eventually exclude ourselves from just turning around and talking to each other? Will the Pause at a stadium filled with thousands of cheering fans replace a place of rest, a step out of time, a reaching across the aisle and making eye contact with your neighbor? Standing up and shutting up for 30 seconds doesn’t show you care for sick people. Loving sick people shows you care.

I had coffee with a beautiful young woman today whom God has brought my way. I told her that Jesus is my answer for everything and she smiled. I can’t heal or save a single soul but God has said that He will use the weak, the foolish, us plain earthen vessels to pour His spirit through. I couldn’t help but think it was good I caught this cold, that I stepped out of the rush of the week and paused long enough to thank Him, and also to care about someone, really care.

I love the idea of a Pause. God wrote it into music and also into life. Let’s not cheapen it by making it an industrial genuflect. Popcorn! Peanuts! Compassion! One of these things is not like the other. Turn off the noise and step outside, PA– — USE.

Psalms 62:8

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah