This space has been unusually silent in recent months, so it is past time for a letter to my fellow pastors’ wives. I’m an internal, delayed processor; so often when my pen stops, my heart has just begun to be busy. Only over time do my inner workings make their way into the public eye.
I read a concept recently which, after mulling it over from various angles, has enriched me enough to want to share. It is this:
Only a still body of water lends an accurate reflection.
Living in South Africa on an ocean-fed lagoon which rises and falls with the tides, I simply had to lift my eyes to our living room window to see the truth of reflection shining through stillness. On days when the wind is high and seas are rough, so is the lagoon that flows in between two ridges that could pass for small mountains. On days when the wind is low and seas are calm, the lagoon water sits in peace, looking more like a lake as it reflects the clouds above and the small mountains that form its borders.
One could say on clear days that the glassy reflection IS the actual picture itself.
So it is with life. In times of change and transition, trial and testing of faith, we often feel anything but stable by human specs. We long for those no-wind days when things feel manageable. Really it is more about control, if we are honest.
But a life of real faith in action (how my husband and I have chosen to live) involves astounding miracles, yes (we have just seen one!) but also the exercising of faith, which at the time feels anything but settled and miraculous. Faith is death- more on that later.
So through the ups and downs of life, how do we navigate these unsettled times? How do we achieve the stillness we need in order to accurately reflect internally?
Psalm 46:10 is a common Scripture to go to when we need to remember stillness. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Actually the entirety of Psalm 46 has an “ebb and flow” sense to it, even a “tossing to and fro” in places. You can literally feel the unsettled nature of the heart as you read this Psalm. It ends with a plea to be still before God, the only way to truly know His sovereignty in our lives.
When our hearts are tossed and unsettled, let it be a notification bell that we are likely not finished processing, that we are not seeing things clearly- the way God sees them- yet.
Only in a still heart can we accurately view what we are experiencing currently or have experienced in the past.
This is why writers are encouraged to wait even years after an event before writing about it for the public eye. For example, after our crisis pregnancies when we were told that myself and our babies would not survive, I waited seven years to write our story into a book. Before that, my private journal held its tongue. The truth is, I could have waited even longer, and even now I think that I want to write our story again, eight years later still. It has taken time for the waters of that traumatic experience to settle (and truth be told, it is a lifetime process because it was so life altering).
Stillness is both a discipline and a process. There are times when we need to purposely still our hearts and cease the internal strivings of leaning on our own understanding and force our minds to think biblically. Sometimes this brings instant stillness- an alignment of sorts- and sometimes we must continue to respond biblically over and over while a trial of longer lasting works its sanctification in us. Sometimes both of these are going on at the same time.
It is important to recognize that when we are unsettled internally, we generally do not have an accurate reflection of our lives, our emotions, our relationships, our purpose, etc. That is why it is wise to refrain from hasty actions and words which are based on how one feels at the moment. Most often, even those reflections do not last because they weren’t the actual picture.
The actual picture- the accurate reflection- automatically comes with stillness.
How does this apply in ministry? Well, those among us with a strong sense of justice may feel inclined to set things right, to be the sovereign ones. There are certainly times that warrant that. But the wisdom of waiting, of letting things settle and letting God work, is the wisest course. I remember times in our early ministry when I wanted to act, and my husband said simply “let’s wait.” I cannot think of a single time when he said that, that it did not end up being prudent to wait. Wait until the waters settled and the reflection of the situation as a whole, was clearer.
Wait to speak, wait to write, wait to act, wait to make a judgement call, wait to move forward, wait to stop something, wait for/to ________________(you fill in the blank.)
Ah, so the being still part is actually waiting. Waiting on God, waiting for God. Not always what we want to hear, eh? Again, it takes faith, a death to self.
But it’s the only way to stillness. May we have the courage to crucify our worrying, hurrying, mulling nature, and submit to stillness. Only then will we gain an accurate perspective- the clearest reflection- of God, ourselves, others, ministry, and life in general.
A Kindred Spirit