The Urgency of Being Still: A New Year’s Resolution
Wrapping up a busy Christmas season and stepping into a new year, we often find ourselves exhausted from all the extra things on our plates. We promised ourselves that this year was going to be different. We were going to keep it simple and low-key. Yet we find ourselves caught up once again in the current of busyness.
Ruth Haley Barton, who founded a ministry for growing Christian leaders, wisely observes, “Most of us are more tired than we know at a soul level. We are teetering on the brink of dangerous exhaustion, and we cannot do anything else until we have gotten some rest. … We can’t really engage until solitude becomes a place of rest for us rather than another place of human striving and hard work.”
It was Simon and Garfunkel, in their “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” who sang about slowing down. Yet I heard someone say recently that we are living at the speed of light, not the speed of life.
A plaque hanging on my wall over a photo of fishing boats docked in the still morning waters reads “Be still and know that I am God.”
King David paints a beautiful picture of a soul that is still: “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2, ASV).
Africans have a saying that you need to slow from time to time to let your soul catch up with you. As we approach a new year with a new vision to “engage people to be fully alive in Jesus,” we will need to be intentional about being still within our souls in order to engage the souls of others. Listening generously to others requires the creation of a quiet place within ourselves to listen under words to hear what is in the heart of another.
Poet William Butler Yeats put it this way: “We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see … their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”
So as we approach 2019 with a resolve to be still and know God and engage others, here are a few suggestions for being intentional:
- Find a quiet place free from distractions.
- Set aside devices that may interrupt you.
- Sit comfortably, paying attention to your breathing.
- Open yourself up to hearing God speak to you through His Word.
- Write in a journal what comes to you in the stillness.
- Look for moments when God invites you to engage in the life of another.
Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, born in the 1800s, wrote this hymn, a good reminder for 2019:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
inev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
With John’s encouragement I added journaling and times of meditation, both of which I’ve resisted in the past; the results are that I feel a greater sense of peace and I’m able to think more clearly during stressful situations and come away from them without the nagging “what ifs” that used to occur. I also feel more aware of God’s leading and trust that it is from God. Thanks so very much John for your encouragement!! When I started the quiet times I found it challenging to quiet my mind to be able to listen for God’s word and now use an app called Headspace that provides free guided sessions that help me quiet my mind.
Thank you John for this reminder to be intentional about my time with God. In Pastor Matt’s book, “Life With a Capital L” he states, “In our journey, the spiritual is what makes the physical significant.” Time in silence and solitude with God is imperative for me to live fully alive.
Well put. As Christians, we have a tendency to ignore our soul and instead, use the physical body as the barometer for needing rest or feeling rested.
John Ortberg, in his book Soul Keeping, addresses the soul as holding our “connection to eternity” allowing us to “see past the petty concerns of the present.” It are these petty concerns that can derail us.
The path of a Christian life is narrow for a reason . It is in the soul keeping that we maneuver this path best.
Susan J Hyatt, MARPC, MAHS