“Be still, and know that I am God.” —Psalm 46:10
This Scripture passage is the favorite of many, because it is so direct and so true. We all need to be reminded that God is God and we are not. And stillness helps us to recognize this truth. In fact, being still is a necessary part of spiritual renewal. Think of it this way. Have you ever come across a spiritual tradition that has not involved stillness as a means to wellbeing?
I didn’t think so.
Any spiritual tradition identifies stillness (solitude, silence, etc.) as a fundamental principal for attaining spiritual growth. In fact, this notion of experiencing intentional stillness is so critical in the Judeo-Christian tradition that it is named as one of the Ten Commandments: “You shall keep holy the Sabbath day.”
We live in a culture that tends to emphasize doing as the most important measure of one’s overall value. Even advertisements for vacations emphasize all the activities we can do while we’re there! While it is important for us to be productive, we must recognize that our productivity is not limitless. Like a battery that needs to be recharged, we need to plug into divine energy for renewal. We do this by observing the Third Commandment. Isn’t it awesome that one of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall take a day off!”?
When we fail to be still or to pause for sabbath rest, we run the risk of becoming “human doings” instead of “human beings.” As people created in the image and likeness of God, this point is crucial. Recall that God revealed himself to Moses as the great “I Am.” When Moses asked God for his name—his central identity—God did not respond, “I Do,” but rather, “I Am.” To take this a step further, it is important to note, as I explained in my book, A Well-Built Faith, God is not a supreme being. A supreme being is a being that is simply superior to other beings. God is the Creator of human beings. God is not a being, but is the very ground of being—the very essence of being. In other words, God just is. During Lent, the Holy Spirit invites us to tap into divine energy by prompting us to take time to just be.
On a spiritual level, taking time to be still increases our awareness.
- It reminds us that God is in charge. Being busy all the time and spending all our time doing can be deceptive. It makes us feel as though we are in control. This is a mirage! Engaging in stillness reminds us that we are not in charge of our own destiny. Rather, we cooperate with God, who is truly in charge. This realization is liberating, because it takes pressure off us.
- It reminds us that we can truly know God. For us to enter into or deepen any relationship, we need to stop and engage the other person, listening to that person and sharing with him or her. In the same way, when we take time to be still, we can more readily speak to God and listen to God speaking to our hearts. Stillness helps us to move beyond thinking of God simply as a concept and instead move into a deeper relationship with the Divine.
- It generates gratitude. When we are still, especially when we enjoy that stillness in nature, we come to a greater awareness of God’s goodness. And the natural response to being the beneficiary of such goodness is gratitude—a disposition that brings us into contact with divine energy.
- It reminds us of the nearness of God. Too often, we imagine God as someone who is distant. When we enter into stillness, we are better able to recognize and even feel the nearness of God. Scripture reminds us that God’s presence is revealed in many ways and not usually with trumpet blasts or thunder and lightning. The story of Elijah seeking God’s presence (1 Kings 19:11–13) tells us that God was not in the dramatic fires, earthquakes, and mighty winds, but rather, in a tiny whispering sound. Unless we are still, we will miss the whisper of God.
- It humbles us. It is humbling to appear in silence before someone. Our tendency is to speak our minds and let our opinions and feelings be known to all. To button our lips is to humble ourselves and open us up to the thoughts of another, in this case, the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe. By virtue of our humbling stillness, we encounter the Divine and are fortified by divine strength and energy.
In her book, Spiritual Practices for the Brain, Anne Kertz Kernion reminds us that it was St. John of the Cross who recommended that we “carve out a day every week, or an hour a day, or a moment each hour, and abide in the loving silence of the Friend.” To remain vigilant in this task, it can help to subscribe to a service such as the 3-Minute Retreat from Loyola Press, which invites us to take a short prayer break right at the computer or on a phone, spending some quiet time reflecting on a brief Scripture passage.
It is in resting that we re-align ourselves with God and renew ourselves so that we can become more fully human and tap into divine energy. May you make time this Lent to be still!