One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.”
The irony is that being still is something I’m not all that good at. In fact, I’m pretty much the worst.
Full disclosure: the last two months have been hard for me. I can’t pinpoint one reason. It’s been a culmination of many things that have made for a difficult season in my life. I was talking to a friend recently and it hit me that perhaps one of the things that make my life feel “hard” is because I’ve not yet learned the art of being still.
Even in the moments where I think I’m taking a break—there is usually something demanding my attention. I’m sitting still, sure. But I’m checking email or responding to a work request. I’m sitting down, but I’m watching TV or making a list of things that need to be done or groceries that need to be bought.
That’s not really the “still” I think I need.
Perhaps for some of us—those personalities like mine that fall into the workaholic/perfectionist category—we avoid being still because it’s hard. In the stillness, when we don’t have an activity to occupy us, when we aren’t tethered to our phones, when there is silence…maybe we have to think about things that are difficult. Maybe we struggle spiritually and only when we are truly still do we have to face it. Maybe we fight off depression by filling our every waking hour with activity until we are so exhausted we can’t help but fall asleep. Maybe our instinct is to worry or to over-analyze and instead we pack our schedules so there’s no time left over for that. Whatever the reason, avoiding being still comes at a cost. (side note, one of the characters in my Homegrown Love/Arcadia Valley Romance series suffers from the “overfilled schedule” plight…Brooke, the oldest of the Jennings sisters, is part of the whole series but her story will come out next July!)
I was in Dallas recently with my husband and some friends. We were there to see U2 and we had tickets that let us be right at the stage. It was a once in a lifetime kind of night. And standing there, waiting for the band, I responded to a work email. And as I sent it, I caught my husband’s eye. He just shook his head. And in that moment I knew…something had to give.
It may seem like a small step, but I’ve turned off notifications on my phone. No more dings when I receive an email. No more pings when I have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram notification. Because with every ding and every flash of my screen, I’m pulled out of whatever moment I’m in. The thing or the person that has my attention loses it when the phone dings. And there is no being “still” with a constantly buzzing phone.
I’m trying to learn that I’m in charge of my time. That time is currency. That just as the experts tell us we need to tell our money where to go, so do we need to tell our time how it’s spent.
For me, that means checking email or social media when it’s a good time for me. Some writers say they’re “going dark” for a while as they finish a book. I’m wondering if “going dark” might be good for all aspects of life.
Although who knows…when I get my current book all finished and edited and released, maybe I’ll turn my notifications back on. But I don’t think I will. It’s not easy for me—the “no notifications” thing was stressful at first. What if I was missing something? Then I realized that those things would still be there when I have the time to check in on them.
In the meantime, I’m still working on learning to be still. To sit and think with no distractions and no noise. I’m still not good at it—my mind screams at me about all the things I need to be doing. But it feels good, the being still. The quiet feels like a balm to my soul. There is time to think and time to pray and the nice thing is that after a few moments of stillness, I feel better equipped to tackle whatever is about to come my way. I’m less frazzled now, which impacts all aspects of my life in a positive way.
How about you? What’s your solution to the chaos? How do you find ways to truly embrace being still?