There is a photo in my office that I took several years ago while on a vacation with my wife, Karen, in Vancouver, Canada. Early one morning, I slipped out to a bay nearby, where I found several commercial fishing boats in dock. It was a still morning. The fog just hung above the boats, and the water was so calm that it created a mirror image of the boats with all their riggings of ropes and buoys.
You can almost imagine these same vessels with their crews battling high seas, with waves breaking over the bows and crews of fishermen pulling their traps like something on the TV series “Deadliest Catch.”
But in this moment, the boats rested quietly at the docks. There was a certain silence that spoke, a stillness that was moving.
For many of us, life can feel as if we are far out to sea, with one commitment after another crashing onto the decks of our lives as we long for the stillness of a calm harbor to rest and collect our souls.
While our hearts may long for the kind of stillness that restores our souls, being still is a discipline that is not without a challenge. We live in a culture driven by the need to accumulate and accomplish. When asked the question “How are you doing?” our response is all too often, “Staying busy.” And we equate busyness with being well when it may be a symptom that we are just the opposite. Our busyness can be the anesthetic that deadens the pain of an empty life.
There are a number of times in Scripture where we are encouraged to “be still.”
When the children of Israel were sandwiched between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s encroaching army, Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (NIV).
The psalmist says: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7, NIV); “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother ...” (Psalm 131:2, ASV); and “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
Stillness is a posture of the soul that finds rest and restoration in the presence and power of the Lord that ultimately is a benefit to others around us. 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.”
If you find it hard to get off the treadmill of busyness, here are a few helpful suggestions to get you started with the practice of being still before the Lord.
- Choose a time and place where there are minimal distractions. (Jesus got up early and went out to a solitary place.)
- Resist the temptation to bring your electronic devices into this quiet space.
- Settle into a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, and slowly let them out, paying attention only to the air in your lungs coming in and going out.
- Ask yourself, “Where am I? Really?” (the same question God asked Adam in the garden).
- Open your mind and heart to the reading of Scripture, listening for what the Holy Spirit brings to your attention.
- Capture a few brief thoughts that arose out of your time in stillness in a journal.