“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul” - David, Psalm 23:2-3
It was with great conviction, a few years ago, that I felt God calling me to still waters. He had called me so that I would know that He is God and so that He could restore my soul. Understanding the seasons in my life has been an essential key to my survival and to my joy in this life. I have found that many people love being called to busyness and to do things for God but few people love being called to the still seasons. Most people completely avoid God's call to be still. I have been guilty of this in past times but not on this occasion. Excitement filled me as I contemplated the beautiful green pastures that He would lead me to. The thought of rest and some time out actually thrilled me.
Be still, and know that I am God;... - Psalm 46:10
...He leads me beside the still waters. - Psalm 23:2
Practically though, what does this look like in life? STOP! That's the first thing that stillness meant to me. I had to stop saying yes to everything and everyone and just take time out to be still. Being a pastor is not a neatly packaged job, the need in the church and in the community is always much greater that the time or resources that the church has available. Stopping was not a simple, clean cut thing to do, a great deal of what had to be stopped required a process. Identifying what I needed to stop was step one but step two was to figure out how I could stop practically. Dropping the ball was not an option in many areas of my church work. I had to find someone to train and hand over much of my workload to.
The Power Of Our Choice
I committed to the journey and aimed towards a season of stillness. Gradually I managed to stop most of my church duties, keeping only a few duties were genuinely essential at that time. Another very important step was to stop feeling the pressure to be highly productive and achieve all the time. The focus of the season was to rest and my only focus was to find ways to rest each day. Does that sound boring? Well it did to me, especially after being constantly on the go for years.
Boredom results only if you don't understand the season you are in but if you embrace the stillness, and adjust your mind accordingly, it is wonderful. How we feel can always be controlled by the power of our choice. If you think bored you will feel bored but if you choose to set your mind to think peace then you will feel peaceful.
The season of stillness brought me more time with my children, times of simply hanging out in the garden, playing with frogs and ladybirds. It also gave me more time to try out new recipes and bake more cakes with the children. I did things that I didn’t usually have time for, like mooching around town to do some random shopping.... something that I would not usually do. Shopping was usually scheduled as part of a busy day and had to be done in the shortest possible time. Most importantly it gave me time to linger in God's presence. Often I would find myself rambling off my long list of prayers and then running off to do the next task on my day plan. In the season of stillness I found that I could linger for hours just sitting in His presence – it was almost like having a holiday with Jesus.
Was I being lazy? No! That is the biggest trap of all and it is all in our mind. In the past I would feel lazy when I attempted to have a still season and the guilt drove me back to busyness. Guilt was superseded by constant nagging thoughts of “what will they think”. People pleasing was one of my weaknesses and I did fear that people would find out that I had not accepted an invitation in order to do nothing. When declining an invitation I merely said ‘I can’t’ rather than the usual ‘I am busy’. Everything in me needed to justify why I was unable to accept an invitation but I knew that simply saying, “I can’t” would suffice. My reasons were my business after all.
Laying awake at night, tossing and turning, I realised that I had a long way to go in order to get to green pastures and still waters. As I contemplated this new season of being still I realised that there was another layer to this concept and that was being quiet. In order to fully reap the benefits of this awesome season I needed to quieten my mind from all distractions, from all the things that kept me awake at night. On top of that I also needed to literally be quiet - not talk. Quieting my thoughts required disciplining my mind to think of other things. Instead of meditating on the work I had to do, I needed to intentionally force my mind to ponder on more peaceful things. I am the sort of person that is on the go all the time which is why I have to have seasons of rest. My mind needs to rest, my body needs to rest and my spirit needs to rest and to be in God's presence.
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
- Proverbs 21:23
- Proverbs 21:23
Quieting my mouth was another challenge for me. There are times to be bold and say things that needed to be said and there are times to simply be quiet. I felt God was challenging me to go one step further and be quiet in my season of stillness. Where I would usually have had a lot to say I should say a little, and where I would usually speak bold words I should speak no words. Apparently this would keep my soul from troubles, what a sobering thought.
And so I attempted to be still in my body, mind and soul. It was a wonderful time of refreshing where I did less in order to be more effective in what I did do. I also learned the value of saying less as most of what I usually said wasn’t really necessary. The Bible has a lot to say about this but sadly few of us ever master speaking less. Worst of all is that when the Bible does mention speaking less it also mentions the consequences of not speaking less. Let me list a few of these verses for you:
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
- Proverbs 10:8
- Proverbs 10:8
Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
- Proverbs 10:10
- Proverbs 10:10
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
- Matthew 12:36
- Matthew 12:36
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. - Proverbs 15:28
Give Your Tongue A Break
The list could go on and on. The Bible also mentions that you should not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen . Now I don’t know about you but I struggled with this one. Most of the time I talk because I have something to say, because I want to be heard or because I want to get something off my chest.
The thought of talking only to build others up according to their needs and for their benefit was a challenge. I accepted the challenge though. If God wanted me to be still then I would do my best to be still. If God wanted me to be quiet then I would do my best to be quiet. After some time of practising to bite my tongue I noticed something interesting. I felt more peaceful. In fact, when I gave my tongue a break I actually noticed that I was able to hear the Holy Spirit’s promptings more clearly.
This is a chapter snippet from He Restores My Soul. Find out more about all the different ways to be still including the fascinating benefits of failure in He Restores My Soul.