I'm not one to be still much. I enjoy activity, adventure, productivity and in a perverse twist, "to-do" lists. I've been known to add items to said lists just so I can cross them off (some of you know what I mean, dontcha?). Even without 7 cups of coffee, I have way more than average energy and believe it's my God-given duty to use every smidgen of juice to live life to the fullest and serve others. Yet there's no denying that my busyness has sometimes (not always) been a foil for my desires, exhausting to me and others, a mind-numbing distraction from feelings, and as God tells it, ear-plugs to hearing him. I've been learning a better way. The Pandemic has accelerated my studies and as I mentioned in my recent talk, is a great opportunity for all of us.
"Sit down and shut up" but tenderly.
Oft-quoted Psalm 46:10 and 1 Kings 19:13 are goldmines of simple insight and good news for us busy folks. In "be still and know that I am God," the Hebrew word for "still" actually translates more like "let go" or "release." Wowza. Being still isn't necessarily becoming physically motionless, it's more an attitude of surrender, of being open-handed and open-minded. Yes, I've found this to be true, but it's taken a while.
To my chagrin, with some collateral damage, I've sometimes cleaved so tightly to a notion, with hellish good intention and misguided motives, I couldn't see the better thing God was doing. Though my way was harder, stressful, peace-less, and even downright miserable, I'd go my own way until I was pressed into the stillness of futility or surrender. It's taken me longer than average to slow down and quiet down enough to not only hear God's gentle prompts, but also the wisdom of my own God-given heart and mind. Aligning myself with that--rather than going my own way-- has proven abundantly more effective and enjoyable.
Not shouting, but whispering
In 1 Kings, God wasn't heard in the strong wind, earthquake or fire, but in a "still small voice." I can't help but wonder if Elijah had ignored God or been too busy to hear the gentle voice, whether the trajectory would have been reversed. In my life, God's has had to get pretty darn loud to get my attention. Other times, my own intense activity led me to get so sick that I was laid up and compelled to listen. I've even had bouts of vertigo that spun me into spells of immobility. Now a Pandemic to keep a whole world-full of people still for a bit...How very convenient!
It's an inside job.
Even so, it's been my experience that while tuning into God's gentle, subtle, easy, love-filled direction does sometimes involve physical stillness, it's more a state of mind. My fellow Guidepost's writer, Susanna Foth Aughtmon's blog is entitled Tired Super Girl, an apt moniker for those of us who feel compelled to save or shape the world in our own limited strength. God assures us we can do anything in his strength, but absolutely nothing apart from him. The ongoing and intimate connection with our loving Higher Power, and an attitude of receptivity and dependence is key both to our effectiveness and our peace, even for us Type A types.
Still, pun intended, I have carved out more intentional time to just be, to rest, to bob in the Gulf, or lie on the sofa, or stroll without earbuds, or simply sit. I can now do it in blissful rest, without being antsy or uneasy. But it's intentional. In fact, when I feel anxious, frantic, urgent or driven, I'll make a point of pausing to do nothing, setting my iPhone timer for 7 minutes or more, until the panic passes, reconnecting with God.
These days, paradoxically, I often hear God when I'm jogging, which I consider meditation. When I run (and also when I SCUBA dive--see my article on SCUBA spirituality here), the din in my head quiets. Moreover, I often run in beautiful places where nature reminds me of my creator's love, imagination and artistry. How telling that I often get my best inspirations, novel solutions to problems, and surges of affection for the people in my life and ideas for helping others when I'm running.
I'm now convinced us type A folks don't have to forfeit or energy or productivity, but rather, to harness it with Christ's easy yoke (Matthew 11:30). If it doesn't feel gentle, loving and easy, I need to pause and ask if I'm in the stream of God's will. Then "sit down and shut up" to listen for--and hear--the answer.
With that, I'm off to sit quietly on beach for a little rest on this sweet Sunday.
Hope you're resting today, too. Inside and out.
Hugs in a hazmat.