The Importance of Being Still

Americans seem to be obsessed with time.  Look around.  It doesn't take long to see what I am talking about.  We rush off to baseball games, soccer tournaments, football games, and wrestling matches.  We go to work each day; most of us have a prompt start time.  We must attend meetings and phone calls on time, or there will be consequences.  We schedule birthday parties with strict start and stop times.  We run frantically here and there, passing by people and places in a blinding flash to make it to our next function - if we even notice the people at all.  Anyone who doubts this need only visit a foreign country to notice in an instant that culturally speaking, they often think of time with a much more lenient attitude than we do.  

It wasn't long ago that I found myself sitting in a church ministry class where the teachers were discussing the importance of spiritual disciplines.  On this particular day, we were tasked with the discipline of staying still and silent for five minutes.  During this time we could pray or ask God for supplication - it didn't necessarily matter, as long as we were silent for the duration.  The result was astonishing.  By the end of that five minutes many of us were in tears.  We all lead such busy lives (rushing around frantically with our faces buried in our cell phones and calendars), that no one was accustomed to actually staying still for even a short period of time.   It seemed that we all had basically two modes of operation: busy or sleeping.  Quiet time was only a concept.

This exercise was significant in many ways.  Not because it was complicated or because it took years to master, but rather it was so extraordinarily difficult to stop the frantic pace ... even for a minute.  What do you mean I have to slow down?  People are texting me.  I have to check facebook!  Can't you see I'm late for my next appointment?  You get the idea.

The fact of the matter is, staying in this type of unhealthy fast forward mode can hinder our connection with God.  It isn't that God resists us or stops caring about us when we are running nonstop from place to place, but we simply cannot hear Him.  There is too much clutter, too much background noise.  After all, how can I spend time meditating on Scripture when I've got an important meeting right after lunch?  I would also surmise that if this article is too long, a good majority of people will stop reading half way through!  The burden of timekeeping is literally that pervasive. It can affect all aspects of our life.

We are too busy.  Time to get to the next appointment.  We can't be bothered with the small stuff.

The Gospel of Mark has an interesting take on the importance of being still.  Most of us remember the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  Listen to what Jesus says to his apostles when he can see they are becoming overwhelmed.  Mark 6:31 says, "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'"

Did the Son of God and his followers have an important job worthy of skipping quiet time?  You bet they did.  They were tasked with nothing less than spreading the good news of salvation to the rest of the world.  But even so, when it was time to stop and recharge, Jesus not only sanctioned it but encouraged it.

But let's say for the sake of argument that we are lucky enough to find five minutes where we aren't on our cell phone or digital calendars.  What do we focus on when we are alone?  What exactly brought many of the people in my ministry class to tears?  We may find the answer to this in the book of Psalms from the Old Testament.  Psalm 62:1 in fact says this, "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

The psalmist was right indeed, and we would do well to let those words sink in.  We do need God.  We need Him more than we think we do.  He is the only real point of connection that we must nurture, and it so happens that He is often the last place that people go.  We are busy, we have meetings.  Praying and quiet time will have to wait, right?  Even churches suffer from this problem I think.  I believe that the well meaning Christian may often find himself caught up in a battle between being too busy doing the duty of the church, that it becomes difficult to perform the work of the church.  If you are still doubting at this point, then think back to the last time a preacher or reverend happened to lapse over the allotted fifteen or twenty minutes that was allowed for a sermon.  Were you checking your watch and getting anxious?  Me too.

After all, we are busy.  We have meetings and baseball games and such.  

We make time for the things we love in this world.  If that desire happens to be attending a concert for example, then we find a way to save the money and go.  If it happens to be a sporting event, then we squeeze it in.  And all the while, God is waiting.  Waiting on us to give Him five minutes of our time.  Not the church or ministry mind you, but Him

I chuckle to myself while writing this because I am thinking back to the story of Moses and the burning bush in the desert.   Many readers will remember this famous story from the Bible.  God comes to Moses in the form of a bush that bursts into flames spontaneously, but is never quite consumed by the fire.  God tells Moses that he will be the chosen catalyst for change, and will single handedly lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt.  What would have happened if Moses suddenly pulled out his day-planner and bartered with God instead about which date would work best for him to speak with Pharaoh?  

It is okay to be punctual and responsible.  A certain dose of planning should also be encouraged of course.  But we must remember to take time to connect with God ... to be still.  This is what feeds our soul, and that fact hasn't changed since the first human came into existence.  Probably better to obsess more about God than we do our calendars - for both our sakes.



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