Does life right now feel like one big long Zoom meeting? All “face-to-face” interaction with colleagues is over the screen, social events have become video conference calls, church is live-streamed on YouTube, prayer meetings are over WhatsApp or Skype, or Google Hangouts, Face Time, House Party…did I miss anyone?!
Indeed, so much has changed in just a month. I can recall the moment I realised my complete dependence on the internet to do anything that I deemed “useful” with my time. I had a spell living out in a remote part of north-western Argentina, prone to regular power cuts and dodgy internet. The worst moments were power cuts in the evenings, leaving me in pitch-black fumbling around for candles, the glow of phone and laptop screens illuminating the way (until the battery died). What do I do now? It was an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation for my busy mind; even feelings of guilt would flutter around inside as I felt helpless, unable to respond and unable to complete my work online. For as long as my eyes- and my battery!- could take it, I would resort to typing drafts of emails or messages to send once “normal life” had resumed, but there would come a point where there was nothing left other than just go to bed!
“Be still and know that I am God”. Perhaps one of the most quoted verses from the Bible at this time. Be still. What does that even mean?
I don’t believe that God is necessarily calling us to SIT still in this verse. This may be part of it, but as someone used to doing a lot of physical activity, moving around has often been one of my main ways to relax. Of course, physical rest is and always will be essential, and there are times when it needs to be factored in. But what did it look like for me in those moments of anxiety in Argentina when suddenly my agenda was pulled from underneath me? What does it look like right now? We can still our bodies more easily but can we find a way to still our minds? And why is this so often a last resort, something which only happens when it is forced upon us?
The occasions when I have been determined to have some “quiet time” have often ended up with me writing lists, suddenly I have ideas for work, people I need to get in touch with come into my mind. I basically end up dumping a load of information from my head to paper in order to be able to focus on what I am trying to read or pray by which point, a substantial amount of time has passed and then I end up feeling guilty about that! Surely this is not how God intends for us to live and experience the fullness of His joy? Similarly, what about those with young children, working on the frontline, caring for elderly relatives; where is the “be still” time for them? I am not experiencing any of these situations; the only dependent in my household is my cat
I am convinced there is both intent and discipline involved. However, I am more and more convinced that like most aspects of the life we are called to as Christ-followers, this is not about separating and compartmentalising it into neat little sections. Whilst there is a time and place to find a quiet moment to read, reflect and pray, my thought is that there should be many moments like this scattered throughout our day, even if quickly snatched and cherished here and there between entertaining restless children, dropping shopping off to vulnerable neighbours, checking on patients or residents in care. You might be on the move and loaded with heavy burdens and it is here that we are encouraged- commanded, even- to take a moment to quiet our thoughts and seek out the God who is “our ever-present help in times of trouble”. Any feelings of guilt or “I should be doing x, y and z” are not His words to you, so bring those to Jesus as well, and watch Him hush and still them.
I recently spoke to a supporter who shared her daily prayer with me, which I think is a wonderful way not only to begin our day, but to keep praying throughout: “Lord, help me not just to fill my time but to USE it.” I am sure that sometimes this use of time, whether it be seconds, minutes or hours, is simply: be still and know that He is God.