Recently, I perceived an unmistakable call to stillness. The incidents added up over a week: first a planned meeting of friends with the purpose of discussing meditation via Richard Foster’s book “Celebration of Discipline,” then an invitation to read “The Art of Stillness” by Pico Iyer with our staff at work, and finally listening to a daily podcast which focused on practicing stillness and listening for God. This was all framed by the lectionary passage 1 Samuel 3, which came up several times.
As these incidents piled up, I decided to take God up on the offer for some quiet time. I went to a coffee shop, pulled out my journal, and began to write.
But before I go further, why bother with stillness? I collected a few reasons this week:
To slow down. We are a people of motion with tremendous emotional and intellectual inertia, not to mention kinetic energy. Our modern world always demands more from us. Running nonstop is to be like the world – slowing down is countercultural, which is often a good starting place for God’s work.
To empty ourselves. Try to sit for just 3 minutes without thinking of your responsibilities or your to-do list. Many of us struggle; our heads and hearts are full. Slowing down and emptying out puts us in a posture to hear and receive from God.
To be filled. One of the differences, says Foster, between Eastern and Christian meditation is that Eastern mediation focuses on completely emptying out and retreating from the world. Christian meditation goes further – we become empty in order to be filled. We hear God’s voice, receive God’s call, stir up our creativity, and recover from the wear and tear of everyday life, but poised to engage with the culture.
I sat in the coffee shop, and as an exercise, began to write every thought that came to mind, emptying them into the hands of God. It started with lines like:
A friend’s name.
Desire to lead.
As the list grew, its character changed:
The wood grain in the table, and the marks and blemishes – who made them?
The spiral of metal binding this notebook, precision wound through sheets of processed tree matter.
After that, I stopped writing and started noticing people around me. One spent about 10 minutes getting the balance of condiments in his coffee just right. Another hammered away on his laptop with unfettered focus.
I didn’t hear the audible voice of God like Samuel, but I did receive a sense of peace, calm, and thanksgiving. I entertained creative thoughts and renewed my connection with God and the world.
This is the posture I want to have while seeking justice and God’s Kingdom come. I’d love to invite you to try slowing down, emptying out, and asking God to fill you. I hope we can be like young Samuel, in the quiet stillness, saying, “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”