This Sunday as I preached, I stayed close to the text of Exodus 24— the story of Moses’ sitting with God and being surrounded by God’s glory so that he could receive the law. Though there were many ways I could go with the text, verse 16 is what I couldn’t get off my mind.
“The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days.”
Can you imagine it? Moses sitting for 6 days before the Lord with nothing else going on but just waiting on something to happen! Six whole night and days. If you count it up that would be 144 hours. 8,640 minutes. 518,400 seconds. What a long time!
Have you ever sat in silence for this long?
I have not.
However, when I try to take intentional Sabbaths, turning off my phone (gasp, I know!), not making plans with friends it’s ALWAYS harder to disconnect than I think. On these days, I often start making lists in my head of what I will do when it over! And if it gets really bad, I trade in mediation for counting the minutes until I can get up. When can I talk again is what I want to know . . .
Anybody with me on this?
Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and spirituality teacher, in the book Inner Voice of Love writes this about this tendency: “We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, but what if ….”
I loved what Nowuen offers because he goes on to remind us that: “God wants to dwell in our emptiness.” We don’t have to bring a thing to be with God. We just have to show up for it and allow the Spirit to help us be still.
And as we are still:
It’s about letting go of fear—the fear of all of the what ifs?
It’s about letting go of shame—oh what will so and so think of they saw how I was spending my time!
It’s about letting go of what we’ve constructed around us: comfort foods, normal routines and making plans for next summer and beyond . . .
For in true quiet, we can’t lean on anything or anyone else but God.
Want to give it a try?
It might be as simple as turning off the radio on the car and not making phone calls while you’re driving. Just being still.
It might be as simple as telling your kids or grandkids that you’ve put yourself into “adult time out” for a while and you’ll check in with them later. Just being still.
It might be as simple as going to your garden alone to plant, weed and water. Just being still.
For me, it’s as simple as going to a particular place. It’s my place to be still.
I love our oversized green chair in a my room surrounded by my favorite books with a great view of the trees in the yard from the second floor. As I sit and gaze at the trees out the windows I feel like I’m in a little treehouse made just for me. I love going to this chair as many mornings as I can (though not too early). If I’m alone in the house, I often bring my breakfast to this chair. I sometimes read, sometimes write but often am just still with no agenda. I especially love how the brightness of the morning light finds me in the winter time.
It’s often a battle to get myself there (for as much as I love it) because my spirit fights the urge to think it’s not important.
But, in my heart, I know it’s the only way for my communion with God. And I know finding a quiet place is only way for you too.
Can we live with out it? Sure we can. Will God still love us if we’re busy all the time? Of course. But without finding quiet, we won’t know God the way God wants to really know us!
Entertainer Will Rogers once said this about quiet: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
And I couldn’t have said it any better myself. May God teach us to be still.