Be still

A reflection by Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan

A Great Blue Heron on my neighbor’s dock stands completely still in the morning fog.  It’s a posture this majestic bird adopts when searching for fish.  The one captured in the photo doesn’t seem to be fishing, however, but simply taking in all the surroundings and trying to discern what’s beyond the fog.  Maybe we can learn a lesson from the heron. 

In the psalms, the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  (PS 46:10)   In context, the psalm first recounts a long list of calamities like volcanoes, earthquakes, and tidal waves. Then continues with something we can relate to today, “Nations are in uproar.” 

How did the Lord respond?  With eight simple words to live by:  “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Stillness helps us see the troubles around us through God’s eyes.  Stillness puts our troubles in an eternal perspective.  Stillness reminds us of God’s presence in our lives and invites us to “come and see the works of the Lord.” (46:9)

Stillness also helps us see things that others might not see.  There is a telling phrase in Luke’s gospel recounting Jesus healing a blind man (Luke 18:;35-43).  The scene begins with a raucous crowd travelling through Jericho.  Above all the noise, a blind man cries out for mercy.  Those in front rebuke him.  Yet among all this noise and movement, Jesus does something contrary.  The gospel says, “Jesus stood still.”  (NRSV, 8:40)  It’s as if Jesus tuned out everything else and made the cry for mercy the complete center of his attention.  The crowds missed it.  Without entering into this stillness, they simply heard the cry of a beggar whose plea to “have mercy” seemed to be an annoying appeal for more alms.  Jesus, however, used stillness to penetrate the noise and enter into the world of the blind man, sensing not only his blindness, but his deeper longing for healing and wholeness.   

In perfect stillness Jesus ask just the perfect open-ended question:  “What do you want me to do for you?”  (Lk 18:41a)  It is a question that is not casting judgement or trying to manipulate, but genuinely seeking a deeper understanding and appreciation of where the person is physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   The blind man opens up to Jesus in faith, “Lord,let me see again,” and is both healed and saved.  He leaves, glorifying God, and not him alone, but “all the people, when they saw it, praised God.” 

This miraculouis moment began with Jesus heading the words of the psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Find a moment to still your mind, body, and soul.  Like the heron, the stillness may allow you to penetrate the fog surrounding your life and gain a new perspective, maybe even allow you to hear the cry of someone in need of your help.