Keep still. Let Him do some work.
These are some of my favorite words from Thomas Merton, the great spiritual writer. Merton’s writings about prayer and the contemplative life have been some of the most beautiful and challenging for me.
As a loud, sometimes sassy ENFJ (Myers-Briggs personality), stillness has not been a spiritual practice that comes naturally to me. You know it’s bad when a priest tells you to stop bringing a bag full of stuff to Adoration, and to just shut up, be still, and not be so busy doing. Let’s just say I have a Martha complex on some level.
Early on when I began to take my faith more seriously, I perfected the spiritual activities of constantly doing, of being busy. I did lots of stuff for God and other people, but I did not know how to just be with God in the stillness of my own heart. This led to feeling overwhelmed, spiritually exhausted, and quite self-righteous.
Keep still. Let Him do some work.
Silence is a key component in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We cannot hear Him or know His will in our lives if we are not silent. Being still is not empty or dead, but rather it is being fully alive spiritually.
Silence invites us to go deeper with Christ in a way no other book, sermon, or spiritual direction can do. Silence takes discipline. And we cannot be disciples of Christ without discipline in our lives. Making time and space for silence in the spiritual life takes discipline.
I am slowly learning that silence is where God lives, where He waits for me every day. More and more, I find my soul craves it. I need it on a daily basis.
In the past year, I went through a divorce and the annulment process in the Church. Learning to be still and let God do some work in me has been one of the ways that I have experienced deeper healing and inner freedom in my life. Meeting Christ in the silence was a place to bring all my anger, pain, hurt, fear, and brokenness.
For a while it was excruciatingly difficult. Over time, I found my soul aching for more stillness. And in the silence I came to understand to the depth of my soul that my brokenness is what actually attracts Jesus to me, because there is emptiness inside of me that only He can fill. And for perhaps the first time in my life, I really, really believed that to be true for me.
Right after Christmas I attended a young adult conference in Kansas City called One Thing. While it was an evangelical conference, there was a Catholic ecumenical track I attended with some friends. It was a great opportunity to learn and worship with other Christians. At one of the talks, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal named Fr. Emmanuel gave an excellent talk on prayer and how to be still before the Lord.
He gave us the acronym ARRR as a guide for how to come before God. A is acknowledge your thoughts and feelings before the Lord. He already knows exactly how you feel and what’s on your mind, why try and ignore it? Be honest and authentic before the Lord. A primary component of Alcoholics Anonymous is to learn to how to be uncomfortable. We have to learn how to be uncomfortable in facing difficult feelings, emotions, or past trauma and wounds. When we can bring all those things before the Lord, they have less power over us and He can begin to work on them.
R is relate your thoughts and feelings to the Lord. R is receive from Him by learning to be still and wait on the Lord. What does He want to say to you? Don’t rush it. Be patient. R is respond to the Lord. What is your response to what God has revealed and said to you? Jot it down in a notebook. Carry it with you throughout your day.
Every desire and longing of the human heart aches for the divine, the transcendent. St. Augustine really had it right—our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.
Where in your own life do you need to cultivate more stillness? Is silence even a part of your daily walk with the Lord?
As we ease into 2017, may we hold these words of Thomas Merton close in our hearts, “Keep still, and let Him do some work.”
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