I had a follow-up appointment last week through my weight management program to calculate my resting metabolic rate. Basically, a machine monitored my breathing to determine how many calories I burn a day doing nothing. I was pretty excited to do this, since it gives solid data as far as eating goes and I was secretly hoping I could eat more than the tiny amount of calories allotted in general [Woohoo, I can!]
When I arrived, the program director sat me in a comfy chair and explained the process. All I had to do was sit for 10 minutes with my nose plugged, breathing “normally” into a tube.
After everything was set up, I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I adjusted the tube in my mouth. I adjusted the nose plug. When I was done with my actual fidgeting, I mentally fidgeted, wondering whether I could reach my phone. I thought of other lab tests I’ve had to take that I didn’t enjoy, like the glucose tolerance test during pregnancy. I realized it wouldn’t be so bad with a smartphone. I thought, “How often do I get a three hour break now that I have a child?” But here I was without my phone in hand, just sitting and breathing as normally as possible with a tube in my mouth and my nose plugged.
After what seemed the longest minute or two in history, I realized ten minutes is an awfully long time to sit and do nothing. I honestly thought I couldn’t make it to 10 measly minutes.
Being still is exceedingly difficult.
As my brain continued to wander, I remembered the verse I read that morning. Moses was speaking to Israel as they fled from Egypt. The Egyptians pursued them and it looked like Israel would be overtaken, captured once again, and brought back to slavery. It was to this anxious audience that Moses proclaimed,
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
Once I remembered that verse, the time I spent hooked up to the machine dramatically changed. It was still awkward and uncomfortable, but I started meditating on what it means to be still. Being still seems so passive, but a better way to think of it is being steadfast. It’s standing firm in one place and refusing to move, even when the world is pulling you in twenty different directions.
More importantly, I realized that stillness demonstrates a profound understanding of and dependence on the Lord’s power. Israel could only be still if they believed that the Lord would come through on their behalf. If they tried to take matters into their own hands, it would have failed.
Which led me to think about my own resistance to stillness. So often my inability to be still stems from an idolatrous belief that I’m in control of my life. I can’t pause as long as I feel like I’m the one keeping the world spinning on its axis.
For example, as I continue to record my prayer requests, I’ve noticed that my tendency is to rush in and do something to address whatever needs fixing. I write the requests down and immediately take action, without really pausing to be still. In short, I don’t actually give Jesus a chance to answer my prayers. Instead of steadfastly staying still and making room for God’s work, I anxiously jerry-rig answers my own prayers and miss out on seeing what only the Lord can do. It’s not so much a prayer list as a to-do list. [I can hear the insurance commercial now, “That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!]
What I realized in meditating on Exodus 14:14 is that there are times I need to get to work and do things to address prayer requests and there are also times when I need to wait. Being still gives me wisdom about what kind of situation I’m facing. A pause also gives me yet another chance to affirm that God is in control and I am not, no matter how things will unfold. It also affirms that I am willing to wait on the Lord’s timing, even if it is not the timetable I’d prefer.
To be still is to get out of the way and have a front-row seat to see the Lord at work. May we pause in faith today.