Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quietness & God

I am a wife, mother of two, teacher, administrator, small business owner, sister, daughter, friend. Most days are not long enough for me to actually accomplish the things that are on my to-do list.

With the busy-ness comes the inevitable noise. My family is clamoring for snacks or clean clothes or disputes between kids require settling. There are texts, phone calls, coffee dates squeezed in when hearts are broken and breaking, grace-filled words are spoken, and truth is felt. Papers still need grading, students need helping, business needs to be finished. Time is not standing still and, often, is flying by faster than I can process.

And on some days, I feel the anxiety pressing closer as the noise bounces off the walls of my house or the hurting cacophony of the world begins to close in. There is more to do! Hands to hold, prayers to pray! Good that needs doing. “After all, God,” I reason to Him, while I juggle far too many things, “someone has to do it. Someone has to be Your hands.”

Almost as if He is speaking to me in my weakness, I hear “Be still and know that I am God” whisper through my crazed thoughts about laundry, deadlines, and school activities. In that one phrase, I am reminded of my dependence and His preeminence. In that one phrase, I am gently scolded not to carry burdens that are not mine to bear. In that one phrase, I am encouraged and strengthened in the work that has been prepared for me.

Stillness tends to be foreign to me most days. Quietness even more so. My instinct is to work for my salvation - not work it out. The old (wo)man holds tenaciously in my mind that my effort is what is pleasing to God. The new (wo)man is the one who hears the reminder, “Be still…” And then the conflict begins. Old and new fight for dominance in my inner person, a place that I don’t fully understand and am not always brave enough to explore.

Through the internal conflict, I hear it again: “Be still…” And then I realize that it is a command. Out of curiousity, I go and find the full passage that the command comes from. Psalm 46 is a full account of the work of the Lord for His own glory and on His people’s behalf. Being still is at the end of the psalm - after hearing that God is encouraging, protecting, defending, instructing His own precious people.

“Alright, Lord,” I say (pretending to submit but not actually letting go of the busy-ness and noise). “I am being still. Now what?”

In that “now what” moment, it is crystal clear: simply that HE is God. God of creation and creativity, work and rest, time and eternity. My arrogance smacks loudly in the barely established hush. He is God. Now the silence, the quiet, becomes convicted worship. This essential fact - He is God - is gifted to us in precious silence. It is a fact that is in and of itself grace. His Godhood is our peace, our very salvation. The psalmist describes natural disasters and raging nations (Ps. 46.2-3 & 5) but then the command - “Be still...I am God.”

The noise still happens, the chaos still encroaches. But there are days (or mere moments) that have whispers of quietness when tendrils of grace and peace weave themselves into the thoughts in my head.

A command is present more often than before: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The "Good" Paradox

Good things are hard.

Right things are hard.

There is a challenge in the human experience. Particularly Gospel experiences...the ones we encounter this side of heaven anyway.

We want things that are right and good. We want situations to be right and good. Christians believe in a standard of right and wrong, good and bad, that exists outside of our individual selves. Which is good. But sometimes the application or encountering of that standard is...hard. 

Sometimes application of good and right will look different in different situations. Perhaps a parent has to say no to a younger sibling who simply isn't ready to do the same thing as the older sibling. Maybe an employer has to let one employee go to save the rest of the company. What if the decision that you have to make in life is one that necessarily hurts those around you?

How can good and right still be good and right when there is hurt, anger, sadness, brokenness? What about issues of racism, sexism, where people are told that they have no worth? That is grossly wrong. But how do you fix it when it would require telling someone that they are not loving hard enough, being grace filled enough, and that they need to try doing more hard work?

And then I pause. And look at myself. And ask if I am loving hard enough. Or if I am grace-filled or trying to keep doing hard work. And then I am left with a new paradox: I cannot do all of the things on my own. But all of the things are required of me. 

Where, then, am I to find the strength, power, endurance, to do all the good?

Right around that point, when hopelessness is starting to set in, I remember that I am not my own. I belong to the true Good. I am filled with the Spirit of One whose power and grace and goodness I cannot fathom.

The paradox doesn't leave. The tension, the pull, is still there. But now I know that while it is a paradox for me, it isn't for Him.