I know very little about being still.
I bounce my leg when I sit, fidget when I stand and rub my feet together when I lay down in bed.
Still is not an adjective used to describe me.
I jump with both arms up in the air when I’m excited. I throw my head back and sing opera when I’m nervous. And I slap my hands over my mouth and bunch my shoulders when I’ve done something wrong.
I’m animated, not still.
Inside of me there’s not much stillness either. I get a chest pain when I’m overwhelmed; a headache when I’m too hot, chattery teeth when I’m too cold. I have a permanent back ache that has taken to sending pulses up and down my left shoulder blade. When I’m excited, I get butterflies in my stomach and when I’m nervous my hands sweat. Nothing inside or outside my body stays still.
“Spend six hours in silence,” my professor in seminary assigned me and my colleagues. Are you kidding me? Do you think you could get this brain to be still and silent at all let alone for six hours? If I’m not brainstorming what I need to get done at work or how I could do better, I’m worrying about my friends or family or my house or money. Or I’m chastising myself for being a hypocrite or praising myself for being such a freakin’ genius. Or I’m overanalyzing some conversation or even composing a future blog. And if those things aren’t occupying my mind, then I’m usually rehearsing the acceptance speech I’ll humbly deliver when I win a Grammy or I’m giving an amazing monologue about relationships to an ex-boyfriend after which I gracefully exit the scene having broken his heart and left him in utter destitution without me to love.
My mind is never still – is yours?
I mean really, you can’t be all that different from me.
Maybe you’re shy or not quite as vocal or animated or self-consumed or neurotic, but I bet you haven’t got stillness down to a fine art.
“Be still and know me,” God says.
“How about I be active and know you?” I respond.
I’ll go to my job and work really hard and come home and listen quietly to my spouse talk about her day, and on the weekends I’ll hang out with my friends and encourage them through “good fellowship,” and on Sunday I’ll go to church, visit with my church friends, contribute a few thoughts in Sunday School and listen to a good sermon in worship. That’s knowing you, right? Hard work, being supportive, going to church – isn’t that what you want?
Or I’ll go to school five days a week, read lots of books about ancient Rome or rocks or the pythagrium theory and I’ll be sure to not to curse my teachers when their expectations are way too high even though the other people do. All this because I want to be studious, a student of your world and the more educated I become, the more I understand you. I read the chapters in the book we’re studying in Bible study before I even get to Sunday school – that’s a quality quiet time. Not to mention Beresheth on Thursday nights. That is when I learn about you and just chill with some of my friends and that’s knowing you – right? Learning more about you and the world?
Right? Right? Aren’t you listening to me? I’m telling you how our relationship works! This is how I know you. This is how; aren’t you listening?!
And we’ve missed the point because none of it is still.
We may learn about God through books in a classroom or by throwing a football with some friends or by planting a garden in the earth, but still God asks us to know God more.
How? By being still.
A reporter once asked Mother Theresa what she does when she prays. “I listen” she replied. And what does God do, the reporter inquired further to which the humble nun replied, “He listens.”
Practicing stillness requires setting time aside for it. Actual time during the day or during the week. Designated time for stillness. Practicing stillness requires a posture of stillness – literally. Not posture that will make you fall asleep or make you more anxious or focus you on yourself – but a posture where you can breathe properly, with perhaps open hands, opening your body to silence and to God. Practicing stillness requires patience. Patience for your brain to pass through what you didn’t get done at work, that argument with your mom, what’s currently broken in your apartment, if you have enough money to pay off your credit card, how you wish you’d auditioned for American Idol, and what a liar your ex-girlfriend was. Your brain has to move through all that and then when it is still and it is with God, you will be still and God will be still and peace will settle in.
Peace that not everything in life will work out, but that God will still be present.
Peace that you may not pass that class with a B, but you will pass.
Peace that you may never feel good enough at your job, but you will work anyway.
Peace that you may never find the right girlfriend or boyfriend, but that community will prevail.
Peace that there will never be an end to poverty or war or hate, but that love does exist.
And in the stillness you will hear God say, “lo I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” Even when your car breaks down, even when you flunk a test, even when your spouse leaves you, even when death prevails. In the stillness, you find that God remains.
You will find peace that though the world is not right, God is.
Though you are not strong, God is.
God still is.
So be still and know.