Recently a friend shared with me that her hope for 2013 was “to be still and listen to God.” I found that to be a very interesting and revealing statement. At a time of year when people are busy engaging in new activities and commitments, it was unusual (and refreshing) to hear someone say she hoped simply to be still and listen. This time of year causes many of us to become more active. We take up a new exercise regimen or make changes to our diets. We start new adventures. We want to DO something.
In our culture, we have reached a point where if we aren’t continually running at a frantic pace we think it somehow means we are lazy. We work ourselves to death at our jobs and at home. We spread ourselves far too thin because we just can’t say “no.” We take on projects – very worthy projects – even when we know we don’t actually have the energy to give them the focus they deserve. In those rare times we find ourselves just sitting down and relaxing, it is only moments before our minds are jumping to the next thing we need to do or accomplish. I have suffered from this way of thinking most of my life. My husband tells me all the time, “You just can’t sit down and relax for even a moment!” I hate to admit he’s right but he is. (I also hate that I just gave him ammunition for the next time I refuse to slow down!)
As believers, we do the same thing with our service to God. We think the more we do, the more pleasing we are to our heavenly Father. Nothing could be further from the truth. He doesn’t want us to be running about frantically trying to serve Him any more than we want to be doing it. He simply wants us to trust Him to take care of us. He wants us to rest in Him. He wants us to “be still and listen” to the still, small voice within that is continually guiding us down the path we should be on. When it is time for us to act, we will know it. Purposeful action is much different than taking action just so we can avoid the silence or being still.
Stillness and silence are uncomfortable for most of us. Even in our conversations, we feel strange when there is a longer than normal pause between topics. We will talk about almost anything to avoid the sound of crickets chirping! No matter what area of our life it may be, silence feels awkward and we do all kinds of things with one purpose in mind – to get rid of it. Sometimes, when I am still and quiet, I don’t like what I hear. When I am still and quiet, it isn’t long before the stillness brings reflection and reflection can be painful. It is sometimes difficult but it can also be a catalyst for change or reveal our true direction.
I have to be honest with you, there have been many times in my life when I have engaged in activities (no matter how honorable the cause) because I thought no one else would step up to the plate. I’ve been in churches and community organizations where it seemed everyone was content in letting one or two people do all the work. Many of you can relate to this type of struggle. If I am really honest, I must say I have found it difficult at times to let go of the reins because I feared the resulting effect would be that nothing gets accomplished. Do you know what this says about me? It says I struggle trusting that others are as committed as I am. It says I believe no one could have a better idea than I do. It says I think I am so valuable that without me this project, church, friendship, or family will crumble. When I finally realized how arrogant this mindset is, it was difficult to swallow. I can assure you it did not go down easy!
It is a fine line we must walk. There is a delicate balance between the things we do and the reasons we do them. Too much activity and busyness in our life will drain us of peace, sanity and contentment. On the other hand, too much rest will drain us of our passion and sense of purpose. I’m a firm believer in leaping when it is time to leap but the only way we will know it is time to act is if we have been quiet, still and reflective. It is only when we have listened to the voice within that we can be sure we are ready to leap. Only then do we know which direction to leap and only then do we truly have the strength. It is important to realize that being able to act and leap comes first from a place where we have been able to let go, rest and listen.
So my friend who said she hoped to be still and listen in 2013 was a great reminder of how important it is to slow down in life. It is crucial we learn to rebel against the pace dictated to us by our society AND by ourselves! It is good to rest. It is good to take care of yourself not only physically but in every other way as well. It isn’t selfish and it isn’t lazy to do so! When we constantly focus on the next thing we need to accomplish, we are losing the blessing of THIS moment! This moment is all we have. It sounds cliché but yesterday really is gone and tomorrow may never come. There is no guarantee of even your next breath so slow down and enjoy it. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back.
It is good for us to step back and let go of the control we often grasp at in life. When I am able to let go of trying to fulfill everyone else’s calling, then I am free to fully embrace and fulfill my own. And when find ourselves feeling like we have to “save” every project or organization we are involved in, it might be time to put on the brakes and get quiet for a little while. You might be surprised at who steps up from the shadows when you are willing to step out of the spotlight.