I spent the better part of Valentine’s Day with one of my dearest friends. We were in the oncology outpatient facility where she received, what we all hope, was her final chemotherapy treatment. There’s something about seeing a loved one - did I mention that she is only 37 years old? - hooked up to a machine administering toxic medication, that will bring you to your knees. As I watched the caring nurses bustling about, listened to the whispered conversations of other patients, and heard the whirring sound of the machines, I was struck by our complete human frailness. It was in that quiet cubicle, with the sounds of modern medicine all around me, that I felt the presence of my heavenly father.
You see, I’ve been thinking (A LOT) lately about Psalm 46:10 – you know the part where the Psalmist writes about being still. Why is that concept so hard for us? Are we afraid of what might happen in that stillness? Are we afraid that we might (gasp) actually “hear” our heavenly father? In my faith tradition, we don’t talk much about that concept. But why is it mentioned so often throughout scripture? If the savior of the universe needed to be alone in prayer (Matt. 26: 36 & 39), then why do we feel that we are too important to slow down – to be still?
I have a theory about that. In my professional life, I’m a college professor. I deal with theories and with college students regularly. This generation of students has difficulty with the concept of stillness. They walk around with MP3 players in one hand (and ear), a cell phone in the other, a laptop in their backpack, an X Box AND GameCube in their dorm rooms, and then we expect them to sit in a classroom and listen! I’m amused by this irony. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m hoping for an MP3 for my birthday, I’d be lost without my cell phone, and I’m writing this on my laptop. Just today, my two daughters informed me that they have saved enough of their allowance to “finally” (their word) buy a GameCube. So I’ve bought into this mentally as much as my students. My theory is that by constantly filling our time, often with wonderful, Godly activities, we fool ourselves into thinking that we are knowing God. Do you remember the second part of verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God? It seems to me that we have convinced ourselves that by simply doing, we ARE knowing our heavenly father. Yet, and for me this is the kicker, the writer specifically says to first “be still” and then the knowing part comes. So is the stillness a prerequisite for knowing our God? I’m still working on that one.
I’m thankful for my students, who often teach me more than I teach them, and I’m thankful for my friend. My students challenge me daily to be real, to put my faith into action. My friend, through her suffering and courage, has forced me to slow down and re-examine how I use my time. I’m learning that being still allows me to discern the voice of my Father, the one who created me and knows me best. It allows me time to meditate on His word and His will for my life. It allows me time to rejuvenate, so that I can carry out that will in my daily activities. It forces me to the realization that I cannot be who He wants me to be unless I stop and actually focus on Him. It allows me, as the Psalmist so eloquently stated, to know that He is God – not me. My prayer is that we will have the courage to be still and know our God. I’m just sorry that it took a chemotherapy treatment for this point to be driven home to me.