Be still, and know that I am God.”
Has our Father ever asked us to do anything that we fail at more spectacularly than this simple command?
For a long time, I didn’t know these words were from Psalm 46. But I knew them. During all my growing up years, my mom papered the wall around our bathroom sink and medicine cabinet with inspirational clippings thumb-tacked into prominence. No wonder four of us became pastors. We’d never brushed our teeth without receiving an unspoken sermon in the process.
The clipping I’ve always remembered best was a yellowed and water- (and probably toothpaste) spattered copy of a poem by “Doran” entitled, “Quietness.” I don’t know who Doran was, but a quick Google search makes it very clear which Doran the poet wasn’t.
The poem is not the kind presently in favor. It actually rhymes and is uplifting. Unlike much modern poetry which is completely full of itself, always takes itself in deadly earnest, drips and droops with existential angst and nihilistic navel-gazing (and should only be used to line bird cages if your bird is on heavy doses of anti-depressants), this poem encouraged us to look beyond ourselves, to look upward.
“‘Be still and know that I am God,’ / That I who made and gave thee life / will lead thy faltering steps aright; / That I who see each sparrow’s fall / will hear and heed thy earnest call. / I am God.
“‘Be still and know that I am God,’ / When aching burdens crush thy heart / then know I formed thee for thy part / and purpose in the plan I hold. / Trust in God.
“‘Be still and know that I am God,’ / Who made the atom’s tiny span / and set it moving to My plan, / That I who guide the stars above / will guide and keep thee in My love. / Be Thou still.”
Well, my mom didn’t tack the poem to the wall because it was world-class poetry, even in those days. She just liked it. Mostly, she thought it pointed her family in the right direction. I think so, too.
I wonder if there is any way to calculate how terribly our inability to ever “be still” actually hurts us and the people around us? Even God rested on the seventh day of creation. And I seem to remember a big commandment given to remind us that it’s not only good to stop occasionally, it’s imperative if we would honor God and lead a balanced life.
When we take time to “be still,” we stop frantically rowing our little boats and comically hyperventilating as we huff and puff trying to power our own crafts. Then we’re able to acknowledge that God’s Spirit is truly the One who empowers us and fills our sails. If we’re regularly “still,” then when we sail on, we find renewed direction and meaning and energy for the journey, and we have honored the Captain of our souls.
Should we be surprised? “Be still and know . . .” are not just the poet’s words to us, they are God’s. And that command was written in stone on Sinai a long time before Mom tacked it up near our medicine cabinet. It’s good medicine—still.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.