The Practice of Stillness
The sound of the birds and the fragrant flowers surrounding me, the feel of the wind above me or the earth beneath me, the outstretch of the bright blue ocean beyond me or the vastness of canyon below me. Connecting with God through His creation, through nature, stilled my soul.
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.Psalm 46:10
God continually brings me back to creation, to nature. Even now as we begin Advent, we begin with creation, with God the creator.
When I step outside, I see a world beyond me, a world above me, and a world beneath me. I’m more grounded and rooted when I step outside and practice being in the presence of my creator. My heart stills and I know that God is God and I am not.
Slowing and knowing is how we practice stillness.
I put this into practice just the other day and it wasn’t while my family was hiking around choosing our Christmas tree over the weekend. It was less glamorous and more mundane.
After our holiday weekend, I woke up Monday morning craving routine but desperately wanting more sleep. Out of habit, I turned on my teapot and within minutes poured the steaming hot water into my favorite mug over my sweet jasmine tea. I curled in with my Bible, journal, and my new Advent devotional written by a friend.
As I was reading and journaling, my house began to stir. Andrew finished his workout and my children piled in one by one asking the daily question of, “What’s for breakfast?”
Our Monday morning routine was thrown off not just by the holiday weekend but by the unexpected repair man coming by, holding me hostage for half of the day. Instead of feeling grateful he was coming by to do the work that needed to be done, I was steaming, but not in a comforting way like my jasmine tea.
Another day and for yet another reason, I’d miss my exercise class. My physical, mental, and emotional health was silently shouting at me, but I was trying to speak truth to myself with my Bible, journal, and Advent devotional. I diligently wrote down truth and turned Scripture into prayers, praying my soul would abide.
As I was closing out my time, Andrew walked in ready to head to work and the tension heightened over the repair man. We were both right and we were both wrong. No one won in that moment.
Maybe you can relate to this everyday moment. Have you ever experienced a similar scenario in your own life? How is that we can be sitting with our Bibles open, journaling and praying, and in the next breath we are arguing with the people we love the most?
You’re just trying to get some time with Jesus, but no one around you gets the memo, and you’re left frustrated because all you wanted (all you needed) was a quiet time.
This is where the practice of stillness enters in. Stillness is not a quiet time but rather a time to get quiet. A time to still all the things swirling around inside of us. Stillness helps us connect the dots between our spiritual life and our physical life.
Because we don’t want to live our lives saying one thing and doing another. We want to authentically live out the gospel truth we say we believe. We don’t want to look in the mirror once and turn away and forget who we are. (based on James 1:23)
Instead of reading more or journaling more in that moment, I listened to my body telling me to go outside for a walk. Stillness found me there. I took the back way through the woods and I embraced the wonder of trees and the sky, and the mystery of sights and the sounds.
As my feet hit the ground, I was grounded in the truth of what I just read. Scripture took root in my soul, instead of just skimming the surface. A shift happened, a connection, and I began believing God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. (based on Mark 12:30)
I was able to go back to Andrew and sincerely apologize, rather than say a surface, “I’m sorry.” I was able to forgive and let go rather than stuffing it all inside.
Stillness creates space for our souls to connect the dots between what we believe to be true about God with what’s going on in our present-day life.
Ruth Haley Barton explains this connection clearly in her book, “Silence and Solitude.”
Learning to listen to the body, to rest it and honor it as a place where God makes his presence known, becomes, then, an important discipline for the spiritual pilgrim.Ruth Haley Barton
What does it look like for you to practice stillness in your everyday life? What would it take for you to slow down and know God more?
Maybe that looks like taking a moment of physical stillness or simply walking outside. Wherever you are, lean into that still moment and let it do its work.
God is full of wonder and mystery and He works in mysterious ways. Let’s tune into that mystery and look for the wonder in those still moments that quiet our souls.
When I go back to the beginning, to creation, to nature, to my creator, He helps me begin again, through the practice of stillness.
*Previous posts in this series.