In the frantic muddle of our hurried lives, it is hard – nearly impossible – to be still. I’m not talking about being physically still but about being wholistically still, being still in our whole beings.
In Psalm 46:10-11, the psalmist writes “Be still, and know that I am God… The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” It isn’t easy being still, and it’s even harder to get intimate with God when we are cluttered and allow chaos to surround and fill us. Being physically still isn’t that difficult. We can sit and watch TV or movies for hours. How often do we plop ourselves down in front of our computers to read email, check Facebook, and read blogs or news articles? This is physical stillness, but while our bodies may be fairly stationary, our minds and spirits are anything but still.
Are you one of those people who simply must have background noise, a regular soundtrack to accompany your life? I confess, I used to be; I used to have to have the TV on all day long as I went about my work. That changed when I took a class in Divinity school on the Desert Fathers and Mothers that came with a challenge from the professor: Live, work, and study in silence as the Desert Fathers did so that you can hear God speak. That was very uncomfortable at first, but it did not take me long to acclimate myself to the silence, to listen carefully for that still, small voice. Before this, that background noise made it very difficult for me to be present to myself or to hear God speak.
I’ve already pointed out how easy it is to be physically still, and I’ve shown how we can reduce the background noise from our lives. The most difficult areas of stillness for me are mental, psychological, and emotional stillness. My mind is a manic to-do list almost all the time. I mean, it can go like it’s been fueled on Red Bull and espresso – mixed! There comes a time when I have to say “Stop!” to get the clutter out of my head. Lacking Dumbledore’s pensieve (Harry Potter reference there), my only alternative is to write that mess down and start tackling it one task at a time. Sometimes that mental clutter is a blog post or a story, and I have to force myself to carve out time to get those words out.
Nothing will prevent me from hearing God speak, though, like psychological noise. This is all the mess that tears me down. It’s the sum of all the worries, the fears, the uncertainties, and the concerns. It’s the stuff that can get me down and keep me from getting a good night’s sleep. You probably know what I’m talking about, and I think that, being moms, we’re most susceptible to this. After all, we make decisions for our families day-in and day-out, and we need to be absolutely confident that those decisions truly are the ones which are best for our families, not just best for us. I’ve learned this great trick for silencing the noise, especially in the middle of the night when it’s the loudest and keeping me from getting some much-needed sleep. Are you ready for this? Say this simple prayer to God: “Lord, I know you did not make me to have a spirit of fear.” Don’t messages from God often begin, “Fear not”? God does not want us to be afraid of those things which aren’t worthy of our fear. God wants us to have peace in our spirits. Sure, fears creep in (we are human, after all), but when you are feeling powerless to tackle those fears and worries, pray that simple prayer: “Lord, you did not make me to have a spirit of fear.” Every time I’ve prayed that, I have felt calmer.
God says through the psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God.” Why are we supposed to do this? What does it benefit us? The answer lies in the next verse: We are still because Yahweh Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress. This one verse contains three identifiers of God. First we see the unspeakable, most holy name of God that God gives to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3) – Yahweh. It means “I am” and can also be translated as “I will be.” This is the God who is and who is to come. The next identifier of God is as Shaddai, the Almighty. The Almighty is the One who has armies of angels at his disposal, the one who drove nations out from the Promised Land so the Israelites could settle there. The Almighty is the One who is strong enough to control and conquer even the most fearsome of earthly military forces. Then finally, the psalmist identifies the God of Jacob, hearkening back to the God who was with Israel the man from whom descended Israel the nation. This is the God who was present to the ancestors of the Jews, the God of their history and heritage.
When we are allowing ourselves to be still, we are essentially kicking back, taking it easy, letting down our guard, leaving the working and worrying to someone else to handle. It’s a vulnerable position, if you think about it. But when we are still to allow ourselves a greater intimacy with God, then we are in a completely safe place, because God Godself is our fortress, providing that wall of protection around us. We can be still, because God’s got this. We can release all the clutter of our lives and the chaos in our hearts, minds and spirits, because God will bring order to it, allowing us to experience an even closer relationship with God.
I challenge you this week to do a few things. One, turn off the radio, TV, Pandora, mp3 player, whatever, and tune in to what God has to say to you. Two, get rid of distractions – books, phones, computers – and listen for God to reveal godself to you. (I realize some of you may have small children at home that make living a peaceful, quiet existence a great fantasy, but after a while, you will hear God through them. Check out Psalm 8.) Three, remember to pray that simple prayer above when the psychological clutter is robbing you of good things, like sleep.
Be still, and know that Yahweh is God.