“A harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor’s
rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Christian life. He then went into the dark recesses of his cave and came out with a basin and a pitcher of water.
‘Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin,’ he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled around the inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placid water.
“That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others,” said the hermit. “You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades. “
It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew. Guilt feelings may arise immediately. The shadow self insinuates that you are selfish, wasting time, and evading the responsibilities of family, career, ministry, and community. Theologian Edward Schillebeeckx responded, “…silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child.
The Blessing of a Broken Toe
Yesterday as I left my 35 week prenatal appointment, I managed to slam the big toe of my left foot against a curb while walking back to my car. The throbbing, stabbing pain immediately informed me that this was not just a stubbed toe. Through tears, I drove home in a torrential downpour only to walk into a house with no power, a sleeping husband, and hungry, crying children.
It was, in every way, a perfect storm. After the kids were finally fed and put to bed, my toe cried out to me for attention. A visit to the Urgent Care clinic confirmed what I already knew: “You have a fractured toe. Stay off of it completely for three days and slowly begin to increase your activity after that.”
I wish that I could say I said, “Sure thing, doc!” I merely laughed in her face. “I have three little kids,” I said. “Slowing down isn’t exactly an option.”
But sometimes circumstances beyond our control force us to slow down. A friend of mine in college said that she thinks that is why it says in the 23rd Psalm, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”
Two days before this accident, I was spending some time teaching my girls about how we hear God’s voice. I wanted them to know that He doesn’t only speak to us through the “still small voice of His Spirit within us” or Scripture alone. “Sometimes,” I told them confidently, “God speaks to us through our circumstances. Like if we get sick and are forced to rest, it can be God’s way of saying, ‘slow down.’”
Little did I know that God would speak to me these exact words two days later. I am 4 or less weeks away from giving birth to my 4th child and I will be very honest with you. I haven’t slowed down at all. But God saw fit, in His sovereignty, to force me to sit still and embrace rest, solitude, the gift of literally putting my feet up and just basking in His presence.
Embracing the Gift of Brokenness
Our culture has got some things really screwed up. One of them is that if we slow down or rest, we are failing…missing out…losing ground. But it is only when we slow down that we can focus completely on what really matters. It is only by embracing times of solitude and quiet that we come face to face with our true selves before the face of God. In that place, He can show us what we’ve lost through a turbulent lifestyle and restore it through His loving presence.
Do you fight or flee from solitude and rest? Do you press through fatigue and run towards busyness? Let Christ take your hand today and lead you into the stillness of His presence. Embrace what He may be speaking to you through circumstances that slow you down.
Sometimes weakness and trial can open doors to greater gifts than we could have ever imagined, but we must embrace them as such.