I heard this often as a child. I remember one time my mom promising me a new doll if I would just sit still for ten minutes. When you are a kid, ten minutes is an impossibility, a lifetime, a duration that exists in fairy tales along with “happily ever after.”
Stillness remains a challenge for me. By far, the hardest part of writing is getting myself to sit down. I reheat my coffee, let the dog out, tell the cat she is pretty, stuff my face with white cheddar popcorn, nibble chocolate, check email and Facebook, scoop kitty litter, and reheat curdled coffee again. Then, I sit, twitch, and fidget for a bit before I succumb to the stillness that begets words. It’s like an exorcism.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
I am part of a group of women at my church who will be hosting a retreat this month, and we chose this as our theme. It’s not a message we hear often, and it is certainly counter to what society encourages. Stillness is a renegade concept, a weapon that destroys the inauthentic notions of life. I associate it more with someone like Yoda in a galaxy far, far away than I do anyone on our planet.
Our world teaches us our value is tied to busyness. Do more, go faster, be efficient, be more, make more, and have more. But for heaven’s sake, don’t be still. Don’t stop and smell the roses. Get them in the ground and check it off your list. Or better yet, pay someone to do it. Your time is too valuable. You need to be producing.
The message is clear: if you are still, the world will pass you by. You will be considered slovenly. You will miss out. You will fail to measure up. You might as well be a concrete statue for pigeons to stoop (and poop) on.
When we believe these messages, eventually our motion spins out of control. We lose touch with who we are called to be, the things we enjoy, and who matters most. We get lost and dizzy from all our spinning. And tired. So many of us are tired.
Last year for Lent, I challenged myself to spend ten minutes a day in stillness with God. I was terrified. Usually, the things we need most are the hardest to do, the least appealing, and met by the most resistance. But I decided to be brave and embrace the stillness that always eluded me.
And you know what? I didn’t turn green like Yoda or get soiled by pigeons. I didn’t even feel like demons were being dispelled from my body like I do when I sit to write. I didn’t miss a single day of my commitment.
Contrary to what we may think about motion, the real action begins with stillness. I was more calm, aware of myself, closer to God, and felt a genuine sense of peace. I was so much more intentional.
I continued my habit for a while after Lent and then slowly traded the stillness for the unregulated motion that’s so much easier to fall into. Like a child, I resist. But I know that stillness waits for me, wants for me, and will embrace me anytime I am willing to surrender to its calm.
And the reward for stillness is far greater than a new toy. It is a chance to sit with the knowing that is God.
Copyright 2018 Lara Campbell Patangan