Eugene Peterson once said,
“Every once in awhile, when I get tired of living by faith, I…watch the Orioles play baseball. For a couple hours I am in a world that is defined by exactly measured lines and precise, geometric patterns…”
He goes on to describe a carefully controlled environment with understandable and known boundaries in which the rules are perfectly understood and everyone knows to abide by them. If they don’t, the consequences are clearly seen.
When I get tired of living by faith, I walk over to my bookshelf and pick up a novel.
And if it is a particularly trying time, it is a Jane Austen novel. When my husband finds me like this he knows better than to ask pertinent questions such as: “Where are the kids?” and “Have they been fed?” The trail of cracker crumbs and empty Capri Suns in the kitchen reveal that they have taken advantage of the rare opportunity to raid the pantry while Mom is otherwise occupied.
Meanwhile, I am immersed in 18th century England, where all the problems of the world can be wrapped up in a matter of hours. Everything you are hoping for comes true. Each character who you worried was untrustworthy is found to be so. Misunderstandings are resolved for the good of those who are good. And those you have come to love the most will find love themselves. It all works out, just as it should.
In day to day life, however, the untrustworthy can be a little harder to discover. Misunderstandings seem to linger. Not everyone is loved as they could be. And I believe our default mode is to numb this in whatever ways we can. We probably most often do this with our various forms of busyness and mindlessness and endless preoccupation with entertainment, information, or other people’s thoughts that are always waiting for us at our fingertips.
We’re all well practiced in nuanced forms of escape from the unresolved and complex world we live in.
Then, when we pause long enough to turn to God, it is easy to want Him to resolve all the conflicts just as quickly as we present them. Like, in the span of an afternoon…
Is not one of Our Lord’s most difficult words to us the admonition to “Be Still?” Obedience to that command requires deep submission.
When God says, “Be still and know that I am God” in Psalm 46:10 it is spoken even though the nations are raging and the mountains are trembling.
Eugene Peterson goes on to say that although we all appreciate a world with as clearly defined lines as a baseball game, there is clarity to be found in the life of faith. However, “faith invades the muddle, it does not eliminate it. Peace develops in the midst of chaos. Harmony is achieved slowly, quietly, unobtrusively-like the effects of salt and light…”
I think we all run so fervently away from being still before God though, because as long as we do, we can keep up our carefully crafted illusion that we are in control. Stillness helps us remember who actually is.
Sometimes the person I’m most afraid of meeting in the stillness is myself.
In the quiet, my failures, fears, and inabilities to think my way out of what I’m facing loom large. They can feel like the monstrous waves that threatened to capsize the disciples boat while Jesus was asleep at the stern. It forces me to remember yet again that the wind and the waves still obey His voice.
Sometimes the person I’m most afraid of meeting in the stillness is God, because I cannot control the Spirit. I cannot make God give me an answer to my questions the moment I ask them. I may ask them, but I do not know when I might hear an answer.
This is difficult for a production oriented person like myself who also likes to know what I’m getting. When I go the supermarket, I expect fruit to look a certain way. When I go to my favorite coffee shop, I know what the drink should taste like.
When I sit still before God, however, I have no idea what part of Himself is going to be revealed to me.
Is it His holiness, mercy, justice, grace, power, or provision? Or will I hear silence, or a rebuke, a correction, a pricking of conscience? I have no idea what part of myself is going to be exposed. This is not some tame exercise. I cannot predict it, nor can I control it. It is easier to resort to escapism or busyness, maintaining my hands on the wheel, attempting to steer towards immediate and tangible results. Trying desperately to create my own happy ending.
But my very inability to control God in the stillness, should be a very great assurance that I am actually meeting with the living God, and not some idol, made in my own image, willing to do whatever I say.
And even though I don’t know which part of Himself God will reveal to me in the quiet, I can know where I stand before Him, as one chosen and dearly loved, bought with the precious blood of His Son. Adopted. Redeemed. Secure. And so I need not fear His quiet, His rebuke, or His plan.