Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46.10)
A New Series
Today we start a new series on stillness, exploring numerous ways of being “still,” a word with a wide variety of connotations dependent on its usage. I pray when we’re through, we’ll have a sharper awareness of how important stillness—or “still-ness”—is to our faith and daily lives.
Being convinced all forms of stillness affect each of us in unique ways, I’m doing something I’ve never done: pressing for dialogue here, as well as contributions from Straight-Friendly’s email subscribers and Facebook readers. I’ll take responsibility for combining and distributing your comments via the three channels so we all can benefit from them. We have much to teach and learn from each other, and our shared understanding will be of great help to us all.
Where Did Time Go?
Our spinning planet has become a world of spinning people. Life is now one endless day, with each night’s slumber being little more than an extended nap between ongoing tasks. ‘Round-the-clock communication has made time obsolete. Not only have we lost our willingness to wait for tomorrow, our sense of tomorrow as a clean slate has vanished. Each of us arises with plans for today based on yesterday’s expectations. This blog is a fine example. Every post ends with the next day’s topic, and while most of you sleep, I—being a lifelong night owl—try my best to see the promised post is up before you’re up. I can do this since the ‘Net never closes. If you like, you’re able to read the post first thing in the morning because you don’t have to wait for the mail to receive it.
Where did time go? New conveniences are supposed to redeem time. And, yes, things once hampered by delays now happen within seconds. Yet we won’t slow down to use the added time to rest, recreate, and reflect. We’ve become a woefully agitated species burdened by tasks we won’t let wait. We no longer appreciate of what’s gained by the wait. The worst casualty of our techno-fed impatience is our reluctance to abandon “24/7 connectivity” to carve out daily time for stillness. And it's there, in the silent repose that absorbs our thoughts and cares, that we maintain our connection to God.
Living Beneath Our Privilege
“Be still, and know that I am God,” He tells us in Psalm 46.10. And He sternly reminds us His supremacy automatically ranks Him as our first priority: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” He will be exalted. His place in our lives is not contingent on our consent. He will come first, whether or not we acknowledge it, accept it, or like it. We’ll never know this without taking time to be still, however. If we devote all of our time to staying in touch, meeting expectations and deadlines, scurrying between commitments, all we’ll ever know is what we learn and experience among ourselves. As rich and marvelous as that may be, it’s not enough. It ends with what a friend calls “living beneath our privilege.” That’s what knowing God is—our privilege.
When stillness gets away from us, the privilege of knowing God goes with it. Our lives turn topsy-turvy; our priorities get screwed up. We get so busy with what we’re doing awareness of what God can do fades rapidly. We start assuming responsibility for things that stillness invites us to entrust to Him. And here’s the truth of it: He’s going to do as He wills, regardless how well we know and trust Him. Many self-propelled efforts will end favorably, inadvertently aligning with God’s work in us. Others will lead to disappointment or flat-out disaster by clashing with His will. Yet even our most successful solo efforts fall beneath our privilege because they’re conceived within our limitations. Ephesians 3.20 tells us God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us.” Knowing God's power comes through knowing God. Knowing God comes through stillness.
Shutting down gizmos and distractions creates silence. But true stillness only occurs when we shut down. We empty our minds of what matters to us and ponder what matters to God. We clear emotions and desires from our hearts to make room for His presence. We subdue responses to our environment to create a realm of infinite possibility within physically finite space. This isn’t natural. In fact, stillness very well may be the most unnatural behavior there is, because it immediately blocks fears and worries that produce anxiety. It insists on complete faith in the safety of God’s presence. It practices His presence to instill confidence we can rely on it during times of doubt and turmoil.
Because stillness requires us to override natural instincts, it entails discipline. Unless we conscientiously set aside daily time to be still, we’ll never master the skills to experience the privilege it provides. We won’t know God as fully. His supremacy won’t become as vividly real. Our confidence His power transcends anything we can ask or think won’t be as sure. Our trust in His protection won’t be as secure. Stillness anchors our knowledge that God is, He is in all, and He is over all. Instead of spending all our time on what we need to do, we’re much wiser to invest a portion of it in stillness. The most we’ll gain from ‘round-the-clock busywork will never amount to the unimaginable things we’ll do and privilege we’ll find by disciplining ourselves to be still.
Please comment: What keeps us from experiencing daily, disciplined stillness?
(Email subscribers, please forward your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook readers, please post your responses as a link comment or on the Straight-Friendly page's message board. Thank you.)
Stillness removes us from a world of fear and worries to enter a safe place of infinite possibilities. It’s how we know God.
(Tomorrow: Still-Ness: “And Yet”)