I find it relatively straightforward to be still when I’m at ease with my life, my relationships are thriving, all ugliness is out of sight and the world is bathed in dappled sunlight.
But it’s not usually like that. Life is messy. It’s hard to stop.
“Be Still “ is a command, a shout , a loud ‘Shut up” , stop striving. Taken from Psalm 40 :10 it goes on to say why we need to be still, it’s to “ know that I am God” God is saying “pay attention to me! I know best,” He knows that it is in knowing Him that I will be able to be still, let go and rest in God to provide help, strength and safety.
So how do I find the time to be still when I’m busy ? We live in a world that seems to be in perpetual motion. All of us have more to do than we ever get done. It is not fashionable to “be still.” Successful people aren’t viewed as people who are “still.” In order to fit more in, much of my life is spent trying to save time, my phone tells me how to save time on journeys, if I can save 30 seconds by finding the shortest supermarket queue I will, and as for spinning balls on the computer, how dare they waste my precious time!
Yet I know that all those saved seconds will count for nothing if I have wasted my entire life being preoccupied with myself and do not know God. Time being still in the presence of God is not wasted. We need to carve it out every day. This requires discipline. On a walk, in the garden, quietly reading, sitting or doing a repetitive task, find the place that stills you and brings you from inattention to attention. Where nothing interferes with your focus. Find a space among the turmoil.
One of my favourite places to experience stillness among a crowd is in the city of London. I sometimes walk past St Paul’s Cathedral down to the Millennium Bridge and climb down steep stone steps to the Thames shoreline . I leave the bustling crowds to indulge in my rather unusual love of mud larking . Here time stands still, with only the sound of the lapping water and passing boats, I look over the river towards Shakespeare’s Globe and the Shard. I am quite detached from the stream of workers and tourist that scurry across the bridge. Then I look beneath my feet and I can easily loose myself for an hour or more looking for treasures that the tide has swept up. I sift through broken bricks and tiles, old clay pipes several centuries old, mediaeval scraps of pottery and blue and white china from my grandparents era.
All are shards of lives long forgotten. They remind me of countless others who have stood in the same spot, listening to the same sounds, silent amid the bustle and finding that it is restorative to stop and stare. I remind myself of what I know about God, that He is sufficient for my every need and that knowledge of Him provides calm for my future.
Did those others, whose lives are long forgotten, find time to be still and know God? I know I’ll meet some of them one day.
Rachel James is a teacher and artist