The Hard Work of Being Still

I love the ocean.  I always have, ever since I was a boy growing up in Southern California.  My kids have often asked me about my favorite things: favorite color, favorite food, favorite character from Lost.  I never know how to answer them.  I like lots of colors, especially when there are many hues in close proximity, like a multicolored bouquet of flowers, or a view of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  And don’t get me started on food.  How on earth do you choose between lobster and tiramisu?  I’d rather have both.  Twice.  And do I really need a favorite character from Lost?

Not so with the ocean.  It’s easy to say that is my favorite place to be.  Our family spent some time in California last summer and I savored every second we were at the beach.  Anna and I spent hours boogie boarding.  Of course, she reminds me that she did it the longest since I “took a break” (the 5 minutes I went to check on Andorra and the others).  But that’s beside the point.

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One of the other things I like to do in the ocean is to simply stand, about chest deep in the water, and let the waves come at me.  I can feel them pushing, pulling, crashing against me.  There is something remarkably satisfying about standing still when everything around you is in motion.  Of course, it’s not easy to do.  I’ve been knocked over, pulled under, and had my respiratory system assaulted by salt water.  (Sometimes the best puns are unintended.)  It takes great effort to stand in the midst of the waves.

This morning I had a lot on  my mind and I thought of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Being still seemed so elusive to me.  Today it wasn’t even stress.  I have good things to do, things in my life that I am genuinely excited about, things that bring me great joy.  But they are noise.  Waves.  They come at me from all directions and push and pull and threaten to knock me over.  And in the midst of the crashing waves, God invites me to stand.

So I took some time this morning – in spite of the voices demanding my attention, the waves knocking me off balance – to be still.  It wasn’t easy – it takes great effort to stand in the midst of the waves.  I stand, sway, stand, go under, stand, fall … it is hard work to leave the other voices behind for awhile and listen to the One whose voice really matters.  But there is something remarkably satisfying about standing still when everything around you is in motion.  It is hard work to be still, but it is unquestionably worth the effort.

 

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