The Imperative of ‘Be Still’

Dearest Rachel –

For all the suggestions I made in my last letter about how to keep oneself sane and on an even keel throughout a situation such as mine, I mentioned reading and keeping up with the news, but I neglected to mention reading the most important thing of all. Maybe it’s so much of my habit that I didn’t think to mention it, but I’d guess that I simply forgot, which doesn’t reflect all that well on me.

God says, “Be still and know that I am God.
    I will be ·praised [exalted] in all the nations;
I will be ·praised [exalted] throughout the earth.”

Psalm 46:10, Expanded Bible

This came up in my reading for today; I always try to do a psalm, a chapter of Proverbs, and three chapters as I work my way through the rest of the Bible (right now, as it so happens, I’m in Job; a great place to be when you’re wondering “why is this happening to be?” although not necessarily a good place for answers; I may take that on in a letter tomorrow), and this just leapt out at me.

Be still. That’s not a suggestion, it’s an order.

Modern man isn’t too good at taking orders. Even the folks who say things like “can I take your order?” for a living aren’t considered terribly valuable in our society (they’re called McJobs for a reason), even if we did consider them ‘essential workers’ last year.

Orders are for soldiers, and western civilization has no taste for war or armed conflict. At least, not an organized, nation-against-nation type of conflict that we think of as ‘war’. We have conflict, certainly, but most of it is internal within a nation, and has to do with rebelling against orders, and defying those in authority. Even Daniel, who can be the most passive young man, talks about ‘resisting’ these days as the only way to accomplish change.

But we have been given this order, and not from some equally fallible human, but from God Himself: to stop, and remember Who He is.

Even if we were disposed to follow orders, while what he’s asking of us is both simple and (theoretically) easy – how hard can it be to do nothing for a moment? – it’s amazing to realize just how much stillness goes against our nature.

Within our lifetime, the majority of the world’s population has shifted to cities – or at least, urban areas (of which the suburbs would count) – from farms and other rural areas. With that shift, life has sped up exponentially. There is always something that needs to be done, and there is always something to do even if nothing needs to be done. And of course, there’s the fact that we are now living in the information era, where we can be aware of things going on anywhere in the world at any time. There is no stillness anymore, even were we to claim we wanted some. Even a vacation is a case of moving around from place to place, seeing and being seen, not just sitting around in a hotel room, doing nothing.

And like most members of western civilization, I’m certainly guilty of this as well. I won’t go so far as to say that this is why He has allowed this to happen to me, but I will say it may be something that I need to consider doing, as long as stillness has been imposed upon me.

When Dad and I first researched about the goddess Hlin – the original ship I was to travel on this week – we both agreed she was singularly appropriate for my situation, given that her designated mission was to comfort those who mourn. I all but read it as a sign that I was doing the right thing to go out, and walk abroad the earth in my efforts to recover from my loss. Upon being informed of the change in ships, perhaps I should’ve taken that as a sign in reverse. But I didn’t; instead, I continued to move forward. I would not be stilled.

And so, God threw this second spanner into the works. Admittedly, it might’ve been less aggravation had He caused my first test to come back positive. At the same time, this at least allowed me to travel, and see a different city for a day or so before everything fell apart. As much as I would’ve been at home – literally – had it worked out that way, I would always wonder what I missed out on. And I would not have been able to confine myself on my own; I would be the one running my own household, with all the trips out that that would entail. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that I’d be exposing Daniel to whatever it is I do have, and we both know where he is on the continuum regarding Covid. So it’s probably for the best. At least I’m not alone in being disembarked.

So now, I have to be still. Needless to say, it’s easier said than done. Even now, I wonder if there’s something more I need to do. Do I listen for Him to say something to me? And how will I recognize it if He were to? I’ve always had difficulty determining that in the past, as you well know. The verse seems to suggest that the earth and the nations will praise Him in my silence – am I to listen for that?

The thing is, the verse gives us nothing more than the command ‘be still, and know that I am God.’ And while that doesn’t seem like enough, it’s all I have, and all I can do for the moment. You are God, Lord, and You are in control; I certainly am not. Do what You must.

I always loved Sibelias’ tune ‘Finlandia’; I had forgotten how much the hymn itself refers to my situation regarding you. Maybe this is another part of what was meant by being still – to seek out and listen to His words of comfort.

Until later, honey. I love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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