When I was growing up my mother always told me I had “ants in my pants“. I was always excited or agitated about something, and couldn’t sit still for a second.
Not much has changed.
Even now I struggle to simply “be still”. My mind is always active – always looking ahead to the “next” thing. I have to force myself to live in the present, and to be honest – I find quiet reflection really, really difficult.
And yet… in a world where things are moving so fast, I realise that sometimes in life, you have to stop before you can truly begin, and that pressing pause to be still and reflect is often the best way to move forward in life.
My wife Jess has two words tattooed on her forearms: One on her left and one on her right. They come from Psalm 46:10 which says:
“Be still and know that I am God”.
The words on Jess’ arms are in Hebrew – rapha and yada. Rapha means “be still”, but it’s more than just silence. It means to let go – to “slacken your wrists“. It’s like an ultimate trust – letting go and trusting God.
The second word yada means “to know”, but again the English translation here fails us. Yada is to know on an intimate, almost sexual level. Like one would say “I know my wife”.
So… be still and know
There is something so powerful about stillness. It really is the key to unlocking so many other strengths and gifts and aspects of our lives: If we want to be better parents, we must learn to be still, to be patient, to listen. To take a step back when the kids are driving us crazy, so that we don’t react out of anger, but rather out love. And not just parenting – stillness is the key in all our relationships!
So that we don’t make speeches we’ll regret.
So that we can “think about our thinking”.
Identify why we are feeling a certain way – label the emotions or the thoughts, and devise a way forward that is proactive, not reactive.
And the truth is… you cant do any of that at speed!
You have to be still and know.
Stillness is the key when it comes to handling our finances. So that before we make that impulsive decision or purchase. we pause, we think, we prioritize. We make wise, God-honoring decisions
Stillness is the key and the trick is finding stillness in the midst of the noise.
Being still is not about retreating to our log cabin in the woods. That can be super helpful, but its not sustainable! We have to learn how to find stillness in the midst of the buzzing, and the conversations, and the whizzing and the whirling, and the lift clubs, and the meetings, and the voices in our head, and the constant pinging of the device in our pockets…
Stillness is the key, and there is much from the early church days, and from the life of Jesus and his early followers, that we can learn about stillness. And it wasn’t because they didn’t have a lot going on! If you read the book of Acts, or the Gospels – these people were busy! They had places to go and things to do!
In Mark 6:31 it says: And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
To Martha, who was frantically busying herself in the kitchen, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha – you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41-42
What had Mary chosen?
Simply to be still and sit with Jesus.
“You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one”. How true is this of our own everyday lives? I know it’s true of mine!
I fret and worry about so many things
I am not still.
I have ants in my pants.
It’s been said that “Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives us something to do, but it doesn’t take us anywhere.”
What is needed is stillness
To be still and know.
Of course there are many ways to do this, but this post is not a how to post. You have to go figure that out on your own. To find and build and cultivate habits of stillness and reflection in your lives. For me – I’ve got this right, and I’ve got this wrong in so many ways over the years. Right now I am trying to do the “Bible in One Year with Nicky Gumbel” so when I drive to work every morning – I listen to scripture. That’s been really helpful.
Another practice I’ve started doing recently is that on my way home from work, I pull in to the parking lot by the beach for five minutes, and I look at the ocean, and I just breath out my day. Sometimes I try make a list of things I am grateful for. And you know what? It only takes five minutes and it’s just a simple thing, but I cant tell you how much of a difference it makes to my attitude and posture when I get home and the kids come running!
It’s the small things that so often make the biggest difference.
So, here’s my challenge to you:
Do something for five minutes today to be still and know. And if you can do it the day after, and the day after that… who knows what God might do in those five minutes that change the trajectory of your life.
Stillness is the key.