Have you ever noticed how challenging it is to quiet one’s self to the point of stillness? “Not moving or making a sound” and “deep silence and calm” are some of the definitions of the term “stillness.” When was the last time you were still (but not asleep) – for 30 minutes, or 20, or at least 10 minutes – without any devices, background music, or the TV, or computer?
In teaching, parenting, and life, so much of our ability to respond thoughtfully versus to react thoughtlessly is impacted by our ability to disengage momentarily from busy details to discern the most important needs of that moment. It is easier to do this if we know how to quiet our hearts and minds to listen and evaluate, even for a few seconds. This doesn’t happen naturally – we have to make an intentional effort to practice being still.
If you are a sleep deprived parent of multiple young children (or teenagers!), it seems as if there is often no choice but to be going non-stop, taking care of one need after another. Is it possible to carve out space for some stillness in our daily lives? How necessary is it to intentionally schedule a few minutes of mental and emotional space in your day? How necessary is it for us to have time to breathe?? I would venture to suggest that it is absolutely essential.
I don’t know about you, but it is so much easier for me to “do” than to “be.” Doing something – anything – gives me the false sense of being in control. But, are we really in control when we are in constant “busy” mode without regular opportunity for reflection and adjustment? In truth, we risk losing sight of our compass and what really matters. We lose our perspective.
I confess that I am guilty of that these past few days – and I had thought I was doing so well too. But be encouraged, we can always reset and start again. That’s what I am doing. Do you think I will miss the mark again? But of course… it’s what keeps me humble!
However, when I make the effort to regularly stop long enough to still my heart and mind, I find that I can begin to…
See with clarity,
Decide with intentionality;
Listen with my heart,
Choose to face my fears,
Identify and reject lies,
Embrace the truth;
Treasure what is of value,
Remember who I am
And whose I am,
It is no wonder that Psalm 46:10 says: Be still, and know that I am God… wise words from our Creator. How can I truly “know” anything – let alone know God – if I am afraid to be still? Yes, let’s admit it: it can be scary to be still. In the silence, we are in danger of having to listen, to remember, and to think!
I love the original German lyrics to “Silent Night.” The word “stille” speaks to me of something deeper than silence; a rare quiet, rich in potential and hope. Many years ago, as a visitor in a little German church on Christmas Eve, I was first introduced to “Silent Night” in its original language, as penned by Joseph Mohr. There, away from all that was familiar to me, I experienced being alone and the paradox of comfort in stillness.
“Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!”
I remember being filled with wonder. Wonder that in the midst of chaos, there could also be life-giving stillness. Emmanuel. The Almighty God coming to be with us in the form of a helpless baby.
In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I challenge you to cultivate the gift of stillness. You might just be surprised with the bonus gift of wonder!