Restless and I --- we are fast friends. That compulsion to rearrange the furniture, drive on new roads, live somewhere new, learn something, start something, go, go, go. Yes, I have that disease.
But maybe it is not a disease. That restlessness is where this whole journey toward stillness began. I was worn out, discouraged, exhausted both in body and soul. Wanting to move forward, needing to rest. Caught in the unproductive, frenetic cycle of restlessness gone mad. I desperately wanted --- needed --- to go away, to be silent, to be still. And so we made it happen. My husband booked me into a little cottage on an island just outside of Seattle and became a single parent for the weekend. I got off the ferry, took a taxi to the cottage, went in, closed the door behind me, and had a panic attack.
I had no idea what to do with the quiet and the solitude. There was nothing I needed to do, no small people voices providing a steady barrage of questions and requests, nothing but my own thoughts in my mind, and I was a mess. Somehow, I got myself out the door and down the path to the little beach. And there with not a person in sight, I breathed deeply of the salt and the still and I repeated these words:
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). God, I want to be still and know that you are God. Help me be still, God and know you. Oh, help!
Somewhere in between the deep breaths and the pleas, I began to listen. And in the stillness and the listening, I discovered not the new landscape around me, but the new hope within me. That hope gave me courage to step again and again along that little beach seeing with fresh eyes the beauty that was there all along. The crushed pink of the shell dashed into lovely splash on the sand, the whole dull brown of a shell turned over to radiant purple, the rippling in and out of the water from deep to shore, the layered blue of sky and cloud, the huge stone so smooth and comforting anchored in a quiet tide pool. In all that beauty and in my stillness, I felt His pleasure.
Forty-eight hours of silence and solitude later, I left that cottage with the conviction that I could not leave that stillness behind on the beach. So the journey began --- the attempt to take each moment captive, to accept the invitation to rest in each hurried bustle out the door to school, in each urgent deadline that must be met, in each chaotic week following chaotic week.
In all of the hurry and the urgent and the chaos, rest is not an easy choice. Indeed, it is not always my knee jerk response, but oh, it is so right. So I am finding ways not to slow my pace (although that is always welcome) but to be still in the midst of a pace that must be kept. The invitation is always there. Just one step. Courage, hope, stillness, all reflected in the steady rush of the waves, in the whisper of the wind pushing clouds across the heavens, in the drenching pour of the rain. All blue. The layered blue of the sea that compels me to put my hand in just to feel the richness, the clear blue of morning sky reaching to forever, the shimmery blue of a rain puddle reflecting once troubled clouds. In them all, I see and accept the invitation to be still and know that He is God.
Just one step. One step to stillness. One step to hope.
One step to blue.
Maybe it’s not restlessness. Maybe it’s just that I revel in courage and in action. Don’t we so desperately need courageous action in our weary world? I chafe at the notion of stillness. But I am finding that this lion’s breath courage is nestled in rest --- the rest that comes not in outward motion but in upward gazing (Psalm 27:4) and inward stilling. And oh, I want it! Stillness, hope, courage…blue.
15 minutes...sometime today. I’m quieting my heart, closing the office door, throwing my apron over my head, stilling the thoughts that will insist on intruding --- be still and know, I want to be still, help me to be still, oh, help!
In the quiet and the still…
I am finding Psalm 46 and reading of the water and the invitation.
I am wandering to Psalm 42 and opening my soul to hope and the Lifter of my head.
I am making my way to Matthew 8 and lifting up my fresh eyes in renewed awe and courage because of the One whose name even the wind and the waves know and obey.
Then I am moving forward in courage, nestled by stillness and nudged by hope into each moment that I walk in today. And I am waiting in joyful expectation for the new ways in which I will be called, for the rearranging and the freshness and the starting of new things.