On Sunday night in Fitzroy Janet Morris helped us to spend some time meditating on Psalm 23. It is such a familiar Psalm and I was wondering how I would find something fresh. Though Janet was not doing a strict Lectio Divina I was immediately seeking that image from the passage that stuck, opened something, led me on.
With a vacation time approaching and aware of my need for some rest I was drawn to “he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul”. I immediately heard the “still waters” of the King James version and started to become aware of how I agitate those waters. There are so few places in our third millennium world where we can be still and there has never been more need for stillness.
I have been marinating such thoughts since I saw The Head And The Heart perform at Calvin College in April. This band made an impression on me that few new acts do and I found a particular song Let’s Be Still incredibly profound:
“The world's just spinning
A little too fast
If things don't slow down soon we might not last.
The world's not forgiving
Of everyone's fears.
The days turn into months the months turn into years.
So just for a moment, let's be still…”
This is the contemporary context that the ancient Scripture needs to bring wisdom to. The speed of life, the demands for immediate response on text, email or Facebook. There seems a constant pressure to live this fast pace. It is not only the speed though. The Head and The Heart’s focus on fear and the lack of forgiveness is prophetically incisive. We live with all kinds of fears and they are constant. We have fear of not belonging, not achieving and of not having what we need tomorrow. The world is graceless and demanding when we need grace and acceptance for who we are.
Yet, when we are still perhaps it will only heighten the fears. What we need in the midst of a fast fearful world are the words of another Psalm. Psalm 46 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.” This verse is given in the middle of a Psalm where everything is crashing in. To be still in the presence of the one who leads us beside still waters. This is to trust the shepherd. To find our identity in who God is and who he makes us by his love and tender mercy.
This summer season, whether you are getting away geographically or not, let me pastorally encourage you to be still. We need that rest. We need that clearing of our minds and hearts and souls, a sorbet if you like, that gives us a space and a freshness for what will come down at speed in autumn and winter.
As I sat surmising Psalm 23 on Sunday night I sensed God rebuking me. As I head towards vacation, or as I see it a sabbatical, I hear him invite me to rest by the silent waters. Yet, I can ripple those waters with my desire to be creative and not miss the opportunity of moments away. I can agitate those waters into waves by not letting go of my fears or worries. I can cause splashes on the calm surface by how I force myself to use the time. I need to learn to be still and to simply rest in the shadow of the refuge of God. It is ok to rest. I need to stop fearing it. I need to stop worrying what the world thinks of it. I need time….
So just for a moment… or a vocational time… let’s be still!