“Be still, and know that I am God.”
When life is normal and I have my 2nd/3rd grade choir, JoySong, we often take a minute or two during rehearsal to practice sitting still. They hate it. I teach them that this isn’t a punishment, but a skill to master. “If you sit still,” I tell them, “Adults respect you more. They’ll want to do things with you instead of trying to manage you.”
And then I go home to watch TV while checking emails on my phone, absentmindedly tossing the ball for the dog, munching on something I don’t need. So much for sitting still. Do as I say, kids, not as I do.
This season continues to be worrying, unsettling, and just plain weird. There’s a whole new lexicon for it: social distancing, flattening curves, PUIs, transmission efficiencies. People who were fighting over toilet paper and hand sanitizer are now making homemade masks. I guess that’s better; at least it’s creative. Lots of hunkering down now. At first, it was oddly quiet. But slowly, the social media platforms became busy again. People commenting on politics, race, greed, fear, the economy. People trying to figure out how to keep any sort of income, to pay bills and rent. People trading stories about having their kids at home, managing a healthy chaos and hoping it stays healthy through the duration. LOTS of parodies, clever memes and TikToks of people dancing with their dogs. Nurses posting how to stay safe and begging us to stay home. And there are many, many generous-hearted people helping in more ways than I can count. Thank God especially for their kind spirits and dedicated hands. It was quiet, at first, when we were shocked at what was happening. Now, it’s getting chatty again.
But there is also behind all of this, a stillness. Lately, I can feel it. Stillness not exactly like holding your breath, or letting it go; more like in that moment between the two. Stillness that simply is, and yet, strangely enough, calls.
This isn’t a stillness calling about being more optimistic or helpful or germ free. It’s beyond words or concepts like that. It uses the language of the soft coolness of dusk, of trees dappled in every shade of green, in a blue sky above and the complicated weave of moss at my feet below. In the snoring of the dog. In the moment right after I finally shut off the phone, turn out the light, adjust the pillow and sigh. It’s not a remote stillness; on the contrary, it’s intimate, personal; its uncanny gentleness unnerving me, even as it draws me in.
This stillness doesn’t require my interpretation, effort or understanding, which is good because I don’t understand it. It’s not sentimental, nor rational. There’s no catch to it, no other shoe to fall. It’s elemental, part of my flesh and bone just as it is the essence of every other element of God’s good creation. It has an eerie deja vu about it, both mysterious and familiar. My soul remembers it somehow, even as the rest of me has forgotten.
To answer this stillness is to allow myself to lean into a bigger truth that I can’t control. To breathe into it, and feel it move through me without resisting. To surrender in a way that doesn’t dissolve me into nothingness, but somehow connects me into a completeness. Not thinking, or praying. To answer by simply being.
But is that enough in these troubled times, simply being? Maybe. Maybe just for today, anyway. Five minutes at a time.
When I read Psalm 46, it seems to me the psalmist is taking dictation for a very specific, very gentle, very powerful invitation. Engraved not on paper, but on Somebody’s hands. “Be still and know that I am God’ can only be spoken by One, and it’s not David.
They are the whispered words from Someone who asks that we just be still a minute, calm down, take a breath, and simply know. I’ll accept that. Can you? There’s a quote from Yoda in Star Wars that I really like, “ Do or do not. There is no try..” So in these next few moments, I will not “try”; I will “do not.” I will just be. Maybe you can, too.
Close your eyes. Wait for yourself to slow down a bit. Even if you can’t feel it. Even if you can’t understand it. Do not. Just be. Still. Know.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
It’s worth a try.