Yesterday I mowed with the riding lawn tractor and today I went out to use the push mower to go places the big mower can’t go. I used the last of the gas out of the can yesterday but for some reason, I thought there was plenty in the push mower. I was wrong. I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed for the gas station. It was nice weather so I put the windows down.
On the way back I looked out my passenger seat window and there was a spider, on one strand of webbing, attached from the passenger mirror to the door. It looked as though it was holding on for dear life! However, what stunned me was the webbing held. The force of the wind was flowing around it and the webbing strong enough to hold it.
I watched and reflected on the strategy of the spider. It wasn’t trying to go forward or backward. It was still, trusting its “anchors” not to break.
The spider is a teacher. Often times, when stormy seasons and turbulent times rock our lives we want to retreat to some place safe or push ahead and get it over as quickly as possible. Perhaps, instead of using energy to try to avoid the difficulties we should be still and trust our anchor to hold fast.
I guess the question would be; “What are we anchored to?”
This morning, on my way to see a couple of fathers, I approached an intersection where the main road which I was traveling rounds a curve and another road intersects at the center of the curve. A large phone utility truck approached the stop sign on the side road, slowed but never stopped. Fortunately for him, I was turning or I couldn’t have slowed down enough to stop before crashing into him.
It’s so hard to stop. We as a people seem to always be on the go. The world’s history is a story about people who keep going, striving, exploring, not wanting to stop.
A few nights ago Beth and I watched the movie; “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon. It was a good movie about a man stranded alone on the red planet and the desperate attempt to rescue him. Even on another world he still couldn’t stop but had to work hard and travel a great distance just to survive.
I think that’s why we don’t stop. We believe moving is equivalent to being alive. If we stop, we die. However, there are some places we can go only if we’re still, cease our striving, realizing that the most unexplored places require a journey within.
Not So Fast! –
Today, on my way to a meeting in Shelbyville, Tennessee I was cruising along at a crisp 60MPH when I spied a flashing construction sign which read; “New Signal Light Ahead. Be Prepared to Stop!” I was confused because I’ve never known this road to be extra busy but began to slow down as I rounded a curve and sure enough a new traffic light had been installed. It was red when I first saw it and stayed red…for a long time! I thought maybe the light was broken and we should begin proceeding carefully but none of the other vehicles moved. Finally, it turned green and as I reached the new light there were two signs which read; “Stop Here On Red.” “Maximum Time for Red Light: Three Minutes.” When you’re traveling three minutes can feel like an eternity and certainly did as I waited for the green. For the record, the light was red on my way out-of-town as well. Grrrr!
Practicing stillness is important. I do it every day when I meditate, pray and at various other times, especially when it’s been hectic. Stillness is a central discipline to gaining wisdom and experiencing life. However, I’d prefer to dictate when I will and won’t be still. I’d like it to be my decision. I surely didn’t want it on my way to a meeting, driving down a country road. Yet, here was a time of stillness forced upon me but instead impatience, confusion was the result.
To truly know stillness is to carry it with you. It shouldn’t need to be conjured up on a timetable. Being still is more than a way of life it’s a way of being. It’s also a lesson and a discipline I’m still working on.
Mowing the grass today I crossed paths with a butterfly which seemed for a moment he would land on the lawn mower and I’d have a riding partner. Alas, at the last moment, he turned and fluttered away.
I like this quote (pictured). It’s a good reminder that happiness too can elude us quickly. There are many things in this world which promise happiness, contentment, satisfaction but few deliver and even fewer last more than a season. What’s interesting is we keep chasing after the new thing which promises us a better, more respected, fulfilled life but like the butterfly, it flutters away.
It isn’t wrong to seek happiness but in our frenetic, ever evolving, never steady world it’s easy to get lost in chasing trinkets and listening to voices on the wind. The more difficult way is to be still and allow happiness to find us. It takes trust and patience but most good things do.
Don’t Move –
Yesterday, taking a break from yard work on a hot day in May, I sat on the porch wiping the sweat off my brow with a towel and drinking a bottle of water. As I sat there a brown bird, who has a nest in the corner of the porch swooped down and landed on my leg. I froze. A bird landing on me was awesome but I didn’t dare move for fear of scaring it away. Sweat poured down my face, my tired arms and restless legs immovable. It seemed like it was forever but I knew it was only a few minutes until I had to dry the sweat from my eyes and take another drink of water. Predictably, the bird flew off as soon as I moved. For a second, however, I was still enough to enjoy the experience.
It’s hard being still in today’s world. We miss so much because we are so busy. We’ve got places to go and people to see. Schedules have to be kept and filled calendars emptied.
I wonder how many small wonders we miss because life’s most important moments are only ours to experience if we’d simply be still?
When I was a student at Trevecca Nazarene University one of the classes I took was a spiritual formation class. On the first day, the teacher of the class lit a candle and told us it represented the presence of the Holy Spirit, alive, moving and not be captured or coerced. He lit the candle at every class. For some, it was probably hokey but for me, it was my first step into Contemplative Christianity which eventually led me to become a Benedictine Oblate (http://www.osb.org/obl/intro.html).
Another discipline we would learn and one I still do to this day is praying Psalm 46:10; “Be Still and Know I am God.” We would sit quietly and begin by quoting the entire verse and then let a word(s) drop off after saying each phrase multiple times…
“Be Still and Know I am God
Be Still and Know I am
Be Still and Know
When we arrived at; “Be” it was understood we found ourselves, our true selves, only in God. God wasn’t number one, he was the only one and everything else found its place in Him.
I follow this rhythmic prayer, often praying; “Be Still.” many times between rising in the morning and going to bed at night. It focuses, settles and comforts me or rather the words open my spirit and remind me I am because God allows me to be.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to admit we are powerless. It’s not in our DNA. We are overcomers. We make a way where there isn’t a way. We will not be conquered, helpless, ineffectual, useless, defenseless, defeated.
However, there are times when we have no choice. In spite of our defiance and indomitable spirit, we must admit we cannot win, change or alter a situation.
Wisdom tells us that submission can at times be our greatest strength. It is when we are still, not struggling, we find our way to peace and contentment. There is a difference between being physically or emotionally powerless and having the ability to know the fight isn’t ours to win.