I recently spent a lovely Saturday at the Baptist Women in Ministry of Georgia retreat, Be Still. During the retreat, led by Darci Jaret and Sharyn Dowd, we created a collaborative art project, listened to each other’s stories, spent time in stillness, and shared communion. There was also time for actual quiet and stillness where we were given the option to engage in any activity that fostered stillness within us. While many people chose to walk a labyrinth or take short hikes, I took the assignment to “be still” quite literally. I napped. And it wasn’t a gentle cat nap. It was the kind of nap where I woke up thinking I had been kidnapped and time warped back to 1990, because the cabin that I was napping in looked an awful lot like the cabins from my many trips to GA camp.
After I realized where I was, I quickly smoothed out my bedhead and ran out the cabin door toward the cafeteria. It took every second of my stumbly walk to lunch for me to fully wake up. I still had pillow marks on my face as people were recounting how they spent their quiet hour walking the labyrinth and hiking and reading and doing very non-nap things. As people began to share how they spent their time, one thing kept running through my tired mind, “Wow. I am really bad at being still.” I realize that I have a pretty bad habit of flip-flopping between being fully on and completely off. While that kind of rhythm might seem normal (aren’t we all either awake or asleep?), the truth is that this kind of polarized lifestyle leaves little opportunity to be in communion with God. This quote, that was included as one of our readings for the weekend, perfectly sums up my aversion to stillness:
“Sometimes we do all the talking because we are afraid that God won’t. Or, conversely, that God will. Either way, staying preoccupied with our own words seems a safer bet than opening ourselves up either to God’s silence or God’s speech, both of which have the power to undo us.” – Barbara Brown Taylor
Since that weekend, I have been trying to sort out why it is so colossally difficult for me to be still. As an introvert, I enjoy quiet time, and time by myself or with my close circle. But, being quiet is not necessarily the same as being still and making room for God’s voice. Even the quiet moments in my life are spent closely tethered to something that keeps my mind very busy.
Part of my disdain for stillness lies in the fact that I do not enjoy letting go. It’s hard for me to believe that the world will,
probably maybe always keep turning when I loosen my grip on the axis of my life. The majority of my trepidation toward stillness, though, comes from the fear of the unknown whispers that lie in the stillness. Barbara Brown Taylor is right, stillness has the power to undo me. After hearing the stories of other women at the BWIM of Georgia retreat share that they, too, don’t come by stillness very easily, I realized that I’m not alone. I was reminded by the women gathered for the BWIM of Georgia retreat, that there is a community that will help put me back together when I come undone.
Thanks be to God.