You weren’t prepared for the stillness.
You know it’s what you were hoping for, what you told your friends and family that you needed, and what drew you to this mountain meadow today.
“I need a break from all the busyness,” you said.
But it is…very still.
It feels uncomfortable, this sitting, this waiting. This, doing nothing.
It’s so unproductive.
Your hand itches to take out your phone, check your email, check the weather, look at the headlines. It’s what you do when you find yourself sitting in a doctor’s office, or at an airport, or in between meetings. The constant stimulation is a habit, one that feels comforting and familiar. You are used to making the most of every minute–and even “downtime” consists of activities and entertainment.
Your mind isn’t accustomed to this….this absence of activity.
But this is why you are here, and you accept the discomfort of stillness.
Stillness takes practice, they say, and you are a beginner.
Gradually, you feel your breathing slow and you become aware of the buzzing of bees as they find nectar in the flowers that bob their heads in the breeze. There is a faint “shhhh” of tall grasses, and the murmur of a stream in the distance. The trees at the edge of the meadow erupt in quiet applause as a gust of wind causes them to clap their leaves together in delight. Joyous, you think, and you dig your feet into the dirt—the very dust from which you came. Just then a bird alights on a twig in front of you, cocking its head as if to inquire about your well-being.
“I am learning to be still,” you tell her.
As if prompted by this little warbler, you turn it into a prayer: “God, help me to be still so I can know you.”
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I’m trying, Lord, I’m trying.
In the discomfort of moments like these we realize our addiction to busyness, and activity, and our digital screens. We are unsettled by our inner selves, the ones we try to ignore, the ones we disguise with our polished, accomplished exteriors. As beginners in the practice of stillness, we can find it excruciating, even in a beautiful meadow, to quiet our thoughts and slow our breathing. Our bodies want to leap up and begin to hike so we can feel like we accomplished something today. Our true self squirms in the sudden nakedness of vulnerability.
The stillness draws us in with a promise of a different way of being. To be still, to be in tune with our surroundings, to know God, to be at peace…this is what our soul longs for. We must free ourselves from the chains of productivity and the fear of who we are without the trappings, and find untethered spaces where our hearts can open to the wonder of a God who inhabits this stillness.
We cannot get there any other way.
Rachel Anne Ridge is the author of the new book Your Mountain Is Calling; Finding God in Untamed Places. Filled with spiritual insights and stunning landscape photography, this devotional is for those who connect deeply with God through the beauty and splendor of the outdoors. This is a celebration of God’s creation and all the natural wonders in our world.
Rachel is is an artist, speaker, mom to three, nana to five, and wife of one sweet guy named Tom. She is the author of several books, including Flash and Walking with Henry. Rachel’s art and writing reflect her belief that everyone needs a place they feel good about and love to come home to.