Lately I've been spending some time with Psalm 46. Well, actually, just a portion of verse 10: Be still and know that I am God!
Jesus understood the 'be still' part. Throughout his ministry he sought solitude and quiet places to pray.
Matthew 14:22-23 (The Message)
As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
Mark 1:35-37 (NRSV)
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."
Luke 5:15-16 (The Message)
Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.
John 6:15 (NRSV) (after feeding the 5,000)
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Four different Gospels. Four stories from different points in Jesus' ministry. One commonality: Jesus valued quiet, solitary time for reflection and prayer and renewal. Jesus was, I'm pretty sure, an introvert. Introverts, despite what some think, are quite capable of standing up in front of a crowd or a congregation every Sunday and delivering a message. But that forced extroversion takes a toll. Many pastor friends take what they call ‘the Preachers Sunday Afternoon Nap.’
Sometimes people tell me that although we proclaim that God is Still Speaking, they're not hearing anything. I believe that God IS still speaking, but I think we've forgotten how to listen, because listening happens best in solitude, in quiet, in prayer. Which, not coincidentally, is completely at odds with our noisy, frantic, regimented world. Our cell phones, laptops, Netflix, and hyper scheduled children all conspire to keep us busy - and inattentive.
Aristotle had it right when he said "The goal of action is contemplation." It's OK to be busy, and we have accomplished much in our busyness, but being busy is not the end to itself.
In September our church revs back up, with Sunday morning Faith Formation for kids beginning, adult education opportunities starting, Advent planning underway, mission opportunities, and we are over programmed and over committed. Please remember to also plan to Be Still - to set aside quiet time that shall not be otherwise scheduled - at least temporarily and occasionally. I invite you to set aside time for solitude, for quiet, for reflection, for prayer. See if perhaps it isn't easier to hear if we're really listening. Create a space where you can invite our Still Speaking God to communicate in the voice we can only hear when quiet and undistracted.
After all, it worked for Jesus.