Sometimes it makes me think of a quiet cup of steaming coffee by a foggy, late morning window.
Sometimes it makes me think of standing at the crest of a golden Konza Hill just before sunset, nothing but the breeze to brush my eardrums.
Sometimes it makes me think of the thick quiet that settles over a town before a snowstorm, or the drowning hum of an airplane flying east after midnight, full of sleepy passengers.
We need this stillness. We crave it in the midst of our chaotic little worlds. Too much movement and we get worn out. Our bodies say "no" and we fall to sickness and fatigue. Too much noise and we lose our hearing too early. Too much stimulation and we crumble under the pressure of it all. Stillness is good. Stillness is peace. It is trusting we can somehow get by for five minutes or a day or a month without "doing." It is necessary.
Sometimes, though, stillness makes me think of stagnancy. It makes me feel restless - itchy, almost. Like I can't sit still or stop wiggling my toes (a bad habit). It feels uncomfortable, confining, stifling. It feels like punishment.
It's no new revelation that without movement, living beings cannot survive for long. We must move, of course, to sustain ourselves. We must move to gather and prepare food, to have the means to survive, to keep our bodies strong. But movement itself is a sign of life. Even the smallest tremors - the steady, slow throbbing of blood through the carotid artery, the shallow rising and falling of working lungs - are things that give our loved ones hope to whisper "she's alive!" when the rest of our bodies have seemingly ceased all activity.
We need movement. But we need stillness. So how do we know which to choose, and when?
Let me say it now: I am in this predicament in a more tangible way than I ever have been before. For me, it's developing into a question of staying or going.
Graduation Day is approaching (May 13, mark your calendars!!!), and it feels like being late for a dentist appointment and your dental hygienist is always cranky to begin with but there's a train coming and there's no way you're going to make it before the bar lowers, so you just wait because that is quite literally all you are able to do. Maybe if you would have left your house seven minutes earlier like you were supposed to, this wouldn't be happening. Maybe if you would have just gone through the yellow light, or not stopped for coffee (who stops for coffee on the way to the dentist?), or not forgotten about your appointment until that morning, you'd be more on track.
The metaphor's a stretch, but you get what I'm saying. When you're in a place where you feel uncertain you'll make it to your destination, or you don't even know where your destination is, or you feel like you're falling behind, it's incredibly easy to question every step you've made before and decide you need to take thirteen extra steps as soon as possible to make up for lost time. To get caught up in your head, your failed plans, your decisions.
And as much as I would like to say that taking this predicament (stillness vs. movement) to the Lord has made all the fuzziness go away, it hasn't worked quite like that. Every day, I'm waiting for Him to flash a sign in front of me saying "Y-E-S" or "G-O" or something of the sort. A kind and honest friend reminded me recently that that's not usually how God chooses to do things.
And I'm reminded of Moses. Moses asked to see God's glory, in all its flashing beauty. He wanted to know God's face and His fullness. He just wanted to know. He wanted to experience all of God he could get. So, God fulfilled that request and passed by - but only let Moses see his backside.
God knew Moses couldn't handle His face. He couldn't handle it. He would literally die.
Let's remember David. He made some wrong decisions while he was running for his life, he's discontent, he doesn't trust God to fight for Israel or to fight for his life. So, looking for purpose, he joins ranks with the Philistines, fighting against God's people (which he has been anointed to lead). He doesn't seem to even register that this is what going on. It doesn't phase him that he's on the side of Goliath's people - the Goliath that he defeated himself with a mere pebble years before.
But God knows David's heart, and He has ordained David for a greater purpose. So He, in His mercy, doesn't let David fight alongside the Philistines. The lords of the Philistines don't trust David, and David's Philistine boss tells him to get out of there while he can. He doesn't understand at first. He's frustrated. He's been honest! Why wouldn't he be trustworthy? But he will not be trusted by these people. So he leaves. And there is undoubtedly more stinging hardship to come, more times that David screws up in even worse ways.
But in the end, who is David?
The greatest king of Israel, ancestor to Jesus.
Coincidence? Absolutely not. God's provision. God's protection. God's understanding. David just doesn't know it yet.
Moses and David were just as human as you and I. We ask God to know things too, things that He knows we aren't ready to handle - future plans, complete understanding in the midst of hardship, a glimpse of our eternal destiny. We do things sometimes that go against God's basic will for our lives - to love Him above all and to love Him with our lives by loving others. And then we expect that we know exactly what we're doing and are perfectly capable of making wise decisions on our own, thank you very much. But God is merciful, and He gives us just enough information so that we could not possibly pretend to have control. We have to take steps of faith in the dark in order to move forward at all. If we saw what was really ahead, we would either be paralyzed or rush on ahead and miss out on what's right in front of us. So we hit rock bottom and have to let Him correct our steps when we mess up, when we don't understand. Pretending we have it all figured out doesn't fly with God. He knows we don't.
"We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it." (Proverbs 16:9, MSG)
Friends, sisters, brothers: Let's embrace not knowing, not understanding. Let's remember that the only thing we need to know and understand is the grace of God, His Word, His capital-T Truth. When we know that deeply and find identity and security in it, we are freed up. When we are rooted in the truth, we are free to see decisions that are honoring to the Lord as right-left rather than right-wrong. We are free to be confident that He is crazy about us, thrilled to be with us each morning, ready to shower good gifts on His kids, ready to pull us back on to the sidewalk when we walk straight into traffic because we think He told us to. He is too good, His mercy is too consuming, His grace is too freeing .
So be free to be still, be free to walk forward, be free to know deeply and to not know at all.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10)