Years ago a friend invited me to join him in a day trip to Chicago so we could watch our Kansas City Royals play the Chicago Cubs. Early that morning we flew from Kansas City to Midway International Airport in Chicago, where we took the L-Train to Wrigley Field. We watched the game, reversed the trip, and we were home by early evening.
I had never ridden a subway before. All of the seats were taken, both ways, so we had to stand. On the trip to Wrigley, every little move of the train moved me. I looked like somebody who was being continuously tased on a low setting, but the other passengers were not affected like that. They stood with the casual slouch of the experienced, some not even holding onto a pole. Their minds and bodies were probably making countless unconscious adjustments during the trip, but the commuters were strangely quiescent. I marveled at their stillness in motion and I tried to emulate their relaxed stability, with pathetic results.
The Royals lost, but Mark and I won because we ate some unbelievable Chicago hot dogs. Toward the end of the subway trip back to Midway, I had made so much progress that I now looked like I was dancing on a floor of old Jello, the kind with a little crust on top.
Psalm 46:10, says “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word often translated by our phrase “be still” means, at its root, to become slack or to relax. Gathering up all of the layers of meaning, this one little verse says: “Calm down, let go, relax your grip, cease striving, be still, and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”
Everything else in Psalm 46 is chaos and frenzied pandemonium. I appreciate the Holy Spirit inspiring the sons of Korah to write this Psalm with all of that cosmic bedlam, so that we 21st Century readers can realize we didn’t invent commotion.
About the only still people I see these days are people who have become one with their mobile devices. We are compulsively busy on the outside and on the inside. Many of us live just like I looked on that Chicago subway train.
We are in desperate need of stillness.
Start simple. Pick a time of day or night that affords you the best chance to become still in God’s presence. Begin with five minutes a day, and then increase. Some people use music. Some people use a candle or a cross. I use a Bible, and I make sure my mobile device is elsewhere. Meditating on a Scripture passage calms me and centers me.
Spiritual disciplines develop slowly. The 4,592 times you lose focus or drift away, don’t worry about it and do not give up. God knows you, loves you, wants this for you more than you do, and has divine patience.
When we discipline ourselves into stillness in God’s presence, the benefits easily outweigh whatever it costs us to do it. Once we can regularly become still in environments conducive to stillness, it becomes possible for us to become internally still in environments conducive to clamor. This stillness in motion enables us to know that God is, in fact, God, even in the surging chaos of this life.
Grace and peace,