I called this blog ‘Learning to be still’ because Psalm 46 is one of my favourites, although it’s also quite an unusual psalm in some ways. I love the natural imagery of the storms coming and waves crashing – we often use metaphors of thunder and winds for times of trouble, and to make the contrast with the peace that follows all the clearer. I sometimes feel like I’m in the middle of some tornado, the rain in my face, blocking my eyes, flailing my arms for something to hold on to, and aware in my blindness that I’m standing on the top of a cliff, close to the edge, and that one foot wrong will send me tumbling. But this psalm says, we shall not be afraid – the environment will not scare us into submission. The rivers are not too deep, the mountains are not too high. The next part talks about the city of God, which I always understand (and am possibly wrong in this) as being like the church – God is within the church, it’s people and community. He’s there, when we rise to greet the morning and can only see clouds coming our way. He’s there, at the start of each day, each task, each chance. He’s there. He challenges the status quo and rings the changes. He shakes us up. He doesn’t let go. This is what I want to believe.
In the middle of this battlefield we call life, He stops the fighting and the bloodshed and puts himself between the opposing troops. He shuts down the chaos by holding up his hand and forcing us to disarm, to lay down our weapons so we are once again defenceless. He says:
“Be still and know that I am God”
Be still and know that I am God – it sounds easy, doesn’t it? Maybe just shut your eyes and think ‘do I know who God is? Omnipotent? Check. Omniscient? Yup. Omnipresent? Indeed. Loving? I hope so……”
Did it work? Are you just reeling off the characteristics of God you learnt as a child, or do you know them in your heart – are they written inside you, Jeremiah 31:33 style?
(NB if you’re not religious, sorry for that. But without evangelising…..maybe thinking about who God is, is something you need anyway? And if you’re not sure who He is, there’s always wikipedia, or, more prosaically, Psalms 23 and 139 are good starting points).
Maybe you find it easy, but I certainly don’t. I am well known amongst friends, peers and acquaintances as someone who lives at 100 mph – and although this is mostly just because I like being busy and getting things done, it can also be my downfall. It’s when I start to falter that I deal with my heartaches by taking on something new to push it out of my mind, or find something to preoccupy myself with that isn’t quite as important in the long run as I convince myself it is. I am not good at being still. If you came to my church and watched me praying with my head down, you would be able to see me physically squirming to get away from the peace and the still small voice that it suddenly reveals. It’s in the silence that everything floods me out and threatens to drown me. It’s when my internal to-do list is told to shut up that all my fears and worries are given the centre stage. I am not good at being still.
Recently, I came into a new project relating to my patient volunteering society, and I’m loving it. We’re trying to source a patient library for one of the less well equipped hospitals. It’s making me feel more alive than I have for a while, and I love getting stuck into something, juggling lists of tasks, networking and pulling people in to help who were on the periphery. But I also have to question, is this just something else I am doing to push my issues further out of the way? Is this just another way to put off facing up? Am I doing enough of being still and knowing? The answer to that last question for my entire life will almost probably be a resounding NO. I’ve given up a lot of things recently to take the load off, and have hated it. I (wrongly) get a lot of my self worth from the things I do and my achievements, and so at the moment, a lot of the time I feel quite surplus to requirements, quite useless. If I give up this too, I’m afraid that I’ll slip down again and lose the little self esteem I’m managing to hang on to. So, I’m trying to work out what God is telling me about this, and whether I should keep it up. I’m trying to listen (for once) and to learn to just be, still, with God. To pray, with my heart open and my weaknesses and fears exposed and know that God is there, that He could see them before I learned to show them to Him, and that He will guide me. I try to keep knowing and not forgetting that it’s in the quiet that Jesus will show put a hand on my shoulder and show me the safest path, the way to healing.
There are plenty of stories and verses in the Bible about people being given pretty clear directions from God and going galavanting off on their own regardless like an average Duke of Edinburgh expedition (though the extent to which the Israelites galavanted should probably be questioned…). I’m praying at the moment that if I just leave myself open, God will guide me, and I will follow, that He will help me decide what to carry forward and what to leave behind. That He will put clear signposts, in languages I understand, in my way, and keep my road clear. If you are also a person who struggles with being still, I’m praying for you to find some quiet too, and not to fear it. I’m praying that you’ll have a restful week (several have prayed this for me, it is yet to happen) and that you’ll really hear God’s voice and feel his touch. xxchar48.