(disclaimer: I wrote this in the spring and never posted it. It’s still true though, so I pulled it out to share with you).
It’s completely quiet in my house right now. For the first time in nearly 20 years, I have had a week alone.
My husband took our two kids to Vermont this week to ski, and I opted to stay home, work, and take care of the dog. Skiing to me is an expensive exercise in trying not to kill yourself in cold weather.
Truth be told, this introvert heart jumped at the possibility of time alone. I love it. My soul can breathe again. Or it could, if I would just be still.
I’ve realized, through the past few years, that there is a big difference between being alone and being quiet. There might not be anyone around, but I can still keep my soul from settling in to any sort of stillness. I write, I work, I clean, (just kidding, I probably don’t clean), I walk the dog, I watch TV, I read, I do a million activities with my alone time, but the real challenge for me is to actually be still.
Still enough to feel my own soul. Still enough to experience the emptiness, the sadness, the anxiety that I use all that activity to avoid. Still enough to reflect on my life and make more purposeful decisions. To maybe do less but do it with more meaning. Still enough to hear His voice. Still enough to let Him minister to me in all those emotions. Still enough to let Him guide my activities.
I know why I struggle to be still. It scares me. I’m afraid if I stop producing I stop having value. I like feeling I’ve made the most of every day. And yes, it is important to use every moment wisely. But what if the greatest wisdom for me in a given moment is to simply be?
When I do slow down, and allow myself the freedom to do nothing more than exist, my soul can rest. It can loosen its grip on the lie that I have to do anything to warrant praise. In stillness, I am reminded that all my activity is no substitute for the bread of life He offers me. It cannot feed my soul like stillness can.
So yesterday was a “just be” day. I slept in. I lingered in the Word. I was caught off guard by unexpected tears I couldn’t explain other than, “I think I just needed release.” I let them fall.
I pushed aside the “should do” and “ought to” of my never ending to do list and determined to just enjoy a non-productive day. I took deep breaths. I napped. I pursued stillness.
Be still and know. I feel like this has been the theme of so many of my posts these last few months, but it’s a hard lesson to learn in a culture that does its best to push and push us beyond our limits, that doesn’t invite us to slow down. So I will keep saying it, to myself and others.
Consider this your invitation. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to be still? What messages rise to the surface when you try to practice stillness? Is it the same “productivity=value” lie I am inclined to believe? Is it guilt about setting aside responsibility? Is it fear that your carefully crafted world will fall apart in your absence? Whatever might try to hold you back, don’t forfeit the peace, joy, strength and rest God longs to give you in the midst of a busy life.