Be present in the moment
He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
The busier our lives get, the more important it is for us to intentionally set aside time to sit quietly. Experts say we need a five-minute break from every hour of work. We also need one hour of rest each day and one full day of rest each week (sound familiar?). Not sleeping, not mowing the grass, not washing the dishes – actually resting physically and mentally.
You might be thinking, Sure, it’s easy to still my soul on a Saturday when I’m surrounded by nature. But how am I supposed to be still on a Tuesday in morning rush hour traffic? How am I supposed to still my soul back home in the city when the phone is vibrating, the kids are fighting, the baby is crying, dinner needs to be cooked, and the neighbor’s car alarm has been going off since I got home?
Good questions. And I don’t have the answers. But I am convinced that this verse (like every other verse of Scripture) is for every believer, not just for those who live in some serene setting and who have perfect kids and a perfect spouse and a perfect life (which we both know doesn’t really exist). And it’s not for some future life we hope to have when we get it all together. It’s for you and me, and it’s for right now. So, what do we do with it?
Hebrew scholars tell us that the word translated as “be still”, or sometimes “cease striving”, means to stop working, become weak, go limp. I like “cease striving” because it highlights our propensity to always strive for more, better, newer. And it’s no coincidence that the word “strife” comes from the same root as “strive”. Where there is striving, there is strife. Here, God tells us to quit striving. To stop trying to do it on our own, in our own power. Go limp. At that point, the only thing that matters is that the Lord is God, that He is in control, and the He loves us.
Friends of ours from college were moving to Colorado from Oklahoma many years ago. The husband, Kevin, was driving the moving truck while Kim followed behind in their family car. The road was long, lonely, and tedious. And like many of us do when we’re driving, Kim let her mind wander to other things: the friends and family they were leaving behind, the new career and city that awaited them. At one point, late into the night, Kim followed the big yellow moving truck into a gas station. You can imagine how deep her heart sank when it wasn’t Kevin that stepped out of the truck but someone else. She had been following the wrong truck!
How long had she been mindlessly following the wrong yellow moving truck? Where was Kevin? Where was she?
Little did she know that the police had squad cars and helicopters out looking for her for the past several hours. She was in New Mexico.
We’ve all done this before, driven to work or school only to be surprised when we arrived. How did I get here? I don’t remember the drive!
What’s even more frightening is that we often do this in life – go through the automatic motions mindlessly, our heads in the clouds (or in the iCloud as the case may be). Too often we are not living in the moment, but instead we are either living in the past or anticipating the future. After an argument with my wife, I might spend the next hour replaying the exchange line for line. Or maybe I’m lost in planning what I want to say to her when I get home and how I expect she’ll respond. But living in the past can lead to depression and living in the future can lead to anxiety. In either case, we’re lost in our thoughts. What we need is to be living in the moment.
The idea, called mindfulness, is pretty simple, really. We need to do all we can to live as much as we can in the moment. And that means becoming aware of what takes us away, into the future or into the past. Or into cyber reality.
When your spouse or your kids are talking to you, do they get your full attention? What about when you are at your son’s bsaketball game or your daughter’s track meet – are you fully engaged or are you distracted?
When you have a few minutes of down time – sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or right before church service gets started – are you present in the moment or do you reach for your phone as a distraction? In fact, do you spend more time on your phone/tablet/computer playing games and surfing the net, or doing something actually useful?
Being still means being fully present in the moment. Not distracted by electronics. Not reliving past conversations or events or relationships. Not planning for or dreaming about the future. But instead being right here, right now.
Take-home point: Being still means being fully present in the moment.
Take-home verse: Be still… Psalm 46:10
Questions for thought
What do you do to find quiet and stillness in God’s presence? If you haven’t found the right time and place that works for you, what needs to change to make sure that He is your priority?
We are called to work hard, but how do we distinguish striving from hard work? If you take an inventory of all the activities you do in a given week, are there some that are clearly striving under your own power? What would happen if you ceased striving and simply sat still before the Lord in those things?
How do you use electronics? Are they enhancing your life, your ability to love others and love the Lord? Or have they become a lazy, mindless distraction? What needs to change?
King Jesus, fill us with humility in your presence. Remind us of your might and majesty, and silence our busy souls so that we can hear you. We confess that you are God, and we are not. Teach us to be still, to go limp, and to cease striving. You are God, and nothing else matters. Amen.
NOTE: The University of California, San Diego Department of Psychiatry has a Center for Mindfulness where they do cutting edge research along with classes for the public. If the idea has captured your interest, I would strongly recommend that you browse their website at http://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/Pages/default.aspx. I especially recommend the 15-minute video clip on mindfulness found at this link. If you are not accustomed to the language of psychiatry, it can sound strange at first. But come to it with an open mind and a willingness to give it a chance. And when the topic of meditation comes up, realize that it is not merely a New Age or Buddhist practice, but one that is rooted in the brain and the soul, and one that has been practiced by Christians for centuries. In fact, the command in Psalm 46:10 may be interpreted as meditation.