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.

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