STILLNESS PART 2

S T I L L N E S S 
(Part 2)

by Maryl De Milo
 
 

 

What Happens in Silence and How to Navigate it

Maybe you are like me and stillness isn’t second nature. Maybe it seems actually like swimming upstream with 30-pound weights in your arms! Anyone feel me?! Because we know what happens if we are still… the internal noise starts rising and seeks to bombard us with ‘shoulds’ and ‘protests’ to what we are doing. Maybe when you are silent you have negative thoughts like, “you have plenty of other things more meaningful to be doing.” Internal noise can disrupt the simplest desire to present yourself to God. If that happens, simply acknowledge the thoughts and return to your intention of wanting to hear from God. Being kind to the thoughts that come up usually disarms them. It is hard to be silent and also move at the same time, so keep stillness and silence hand in hand in the beginning of practicing.
 
Silence keeps us connected to reality. The reality of God. Prayer is a two-way conversation and when we are silent we are passing the torch to God and giving him space to speak. Have you ever been in a conversation and while the other person is talking you are formulating a response to them or having thoughts of your own. We don’t really hear the other when our minds are full of our own agenda, emotions, and thoughts. Becoming still creates an internal space. It is like clearing off the table to invite guests over for dinner. If there is no place to stand or sit in your house, how can you host guests? Stillness and silence create a space inside to hear from God, it gives him room to participate in the two-way conversation that is prayer. In other words, silence and stillness are intentional practices to empty ourselves and make room for God to fill us with who He is. When we fail to make room in our hearts, we miss experiencing God’s invitations, His tender voice, His powerful voice, but most of all we miss His presence.
 
When we are silent we are acknowledging that God is Divine and we are not. He is worthy of our attention and we are actively trusting that God might have something for us in stillness…it implies that being with God is simply enough. God is enough.
 
 
Practicing Stillness
So, you want to try to cultivate stillness and silence but the thought of being still for 30 minutes sounds excruciating. I understand. Start with what you can do and try it a few times before taking it off the table for good. Enter stillness to the degree in which you are able to, even for 1 minute or 5 minutes, that’s great! That is 5 minutes more then you did the week before! It is what I call progress.
 
I leave you with these words of encouragement from someone who has experienced rich silence with God. Mother Teresa puts it this way, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Stillness is not a magic formula to hear from God. However, through scripture and the wisdom and experience of spiritual mothers and fathers, God responds to sincere hearts. I would rather open to an experience of God, even if uncomfortable, if it means I might hear from the Lord. Out of silence and silliness comes abundant life.
 
Questions to Reflect:
  •  How might God want to use stillness and silence in my life right now?
  •  What keeps me from taking time to be still and/or silent?
  •  What is the nosiest thing in my current situation?
  •  What is one thing I could do today to practice stillness and silence to listen to God? (keep it simple and easy)
 
Prayer to Enter Stillness:
Lord replace my inner restless heart with a posture of stillness. Help me to learn how to slow down my thoughts, honor my feelings, and relax into my body. My life is yours and I want to give you this moment to say what you want, be with me how you want, and love me how you want. I wait in stillness knowing you are present to me whether I feel you near or not. I trust that your word is true. I look forward to hearing you more as I am practicing becoming still. In your name, Amen.
 
 
 


STILLNESS

S T I L L N E S S 
(Part 1)

by Maryl De Milo
 
 

A Doorway to Listen to God

“Would you sit still!” I have heard those words probably a thousand times growing up. Whether it was my mom cutting my hair, as she often did to save a buck, or when I was at a friend’s house for breakfast. Her granny would sometimes chime in with a sweet smile, “you have 99 wiggle nerves and one sit still nerve.” Ever since I can remember I have been a doer. I am the person you can count on to get stuff done; I am busy and people admire it. It feels good that I am productive, after all, there is a lot to get done in the world.

This pandemic has been a big HALT for a lot of people, myself included. Like most of us in varying degrees, I have had to let go of things I absolutely love doing and others I was happy to say goodbye to. The first week of quarantine I was sure this would be an opportunity to cultivate a deeper relationship with God. Although I had the best intentions to make the most of this time, I found my days still cluttered with an overwhelmingly long ‘to do’ list. I decided I actually wanted to DO something about my this. I wanted to listen to God. As I became aware that I was DOING again, I could feel the words of scripture rise up in my heart, “Be Still and Know that I am God.” (Psalm 40:2) What does being still actually do to help us know God?

 

Being Physically Still

Physical stillness is one key place to start when wanting to hear from God. Because being still creates a posture of receptivity and space in our souls to hear from God. Dr. Karin Lawson, PsyD, mentions that “being still is like replenishing the stores. It allows us time and space.” Our bodies get to rebut and be restored. Just like sleeping restores us, cultivating stillness in our lives reenergizes us. Many report that cultivating a few minutes of silence and stillness a day makes many tasks easier, more enjoyable and they are less fatigued. It also can steady our heartbeat and lower blood pressure, and this is just when slowing the body. We can become still when we stop moving our bodies, but our minds could still be full of chatter.

 

Still Outside Loud Inside

Just like stillness, silence isn’t my best friend either. I have spent most of my childhood and adult life using music and people like a pair of headphones so I wouldn’t have to listen. If I am honest, I didn’t want to feel the anxiety that would arise from my own criticism but also because I was afraid of what God might say to me. Questions that come up for me in stillness are: What will He ask of me? Will I have a say in what God asks of me? Do I really even want to hear from God? If He really wanted me to know something, He would just send an angel like He did to Mary, right? (Luke 1:28-38 NIV).

But maybe there is something to an inner stillness that creates a heart posture and receptivity to the Spirit of God. What if God speaks all the time and we miss Him?

 

God Loves Silence

In 1 Kings 19:11-13, Elijah is hiding in a cave from people who want to kill him. God reveals himself to Elijah after 2 intense experiences of wind and an earthquake. This time it wasn’t in a dramatic demonstration of fire or booming cloud that God spoke, but in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). I can imagine as the dust settled from the wind and as Elijah’s body was stunned from the earthquake he was still and silent, making him attentive to the voice of God. Stillness is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual posture that Elijah took to be able to hear the gentle whisper of God. According to 16th century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, “silence is God’s first language.” I think St. John was on to something profound and grounding for us to connect with. When God created the world, everything was still and silent. In the beginning there wasn’t any chatter. There was just God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters (Gen 1:2b NIV). Within stillness and silence God created out of the abundance within himself by speaking and bringing life into existence. If this is what God did to create the world, how much more could He use silence and stillness to bring life to us, to talk to us, and commune with us. When we are still and silent we are present to ourselves and to God. It is in stillness that we can feel our emotions, listen to our thoughts, and create an inner space to hear from God.

Next week we will discuss what happens when we put stillness into practice, how our lives are transformed through silence, and I will give practical instructions for anyone to jump into the practice of stillness.