Stillness is like a two-edged sword. Sometimes it has a way of nurturing our faith and sensitizing us to the presence of God. While at others, it feels painfully uncomfortable and we want nothing to do with it. How can this be?
If we do not regularly practice stillness we will lose touch with its value and beauty. With frequent neglect, we rather learn to fear this quiet state of being. Just as with “strange” cultures and imagined alien creatures, so too with silence . . . we fear the unfamiliar. The cure—exposure and frequent contact. With stillness, the cure comes in the form of practice.
The practice of stillness is like any other skill and the common-sense advice still stands—use it or lose it. What? Am I comparing the discipline of stillness for nurturing a healthy soul with practicing basketball for improving your game or regularly speaking a foreign language for strengthening your fluency? Yes, as different as these ends may appear, the principle of practice is true in each case.
I believe that sometimes we can think of faith too “spiritually.” Just as with sports, so too is our faith trained through persistent practice (I Cor. 9:27). The Christian tradition speaks of such training as “spiritual disciplines”—especially, prayer, fasting, solitude, and Scripture reading. Stillness is no different. If we do not make a habit of practicing stillness, we’ll lose the benefits it can yield and its occasional use will become increasingly awkward and uncomfortable.
I remember a time in my graduate studies when I became so busy with school, work, and ministry that my health began to suffer. Over time I experienced physical and emotional burnout. One day the hard truth hit me like a brick to the head—I had lost the ability to quiet my mind and be still. Whenever I tried, I was met with the buzzing noise of constant random thoughts. I was simply unable to quiet my mental state because the silence I needed was too uncomfortable to endure.
The idea that I once cherished stillness felt absurd in my then-present condition. Inevitably, I began to wonder if the place of stillness had only been a figment of my mind. However, this place of spiritual emptiness eventually led me into a season of renewal that radically transformed my life in ways I could have never imagined . . . and stillness was central to that journey. Next week we talk about how the posture of stillness can become a means to the greatest joy in our life.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever neglected a spiritual discipline to such a degree that it felt completely unnatural? If so, what was it and when did you realize your disconnect?
♦ To see the video and poem this post is based on, click here.