I am no green fingers gardener (my wife Pip will attest to that), but I have noticed one thing about our fruit trees: they produce their fruit by standing still in one place and sending their roots down, silent yet bearing their fruit each season. You cannot hurry them. Thomas Merton made a similar observation, pointing out that as the world goes about its busyness and noise, all the plants and trees continue to “bring forth fruit in silence.”
We live in an age where we seem to be obsessed with speed, with doing everything fast - faster internet, fast food, faster travel and so on. In 1909, the Futurist Manifesto stated, ‘we affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed’. Yet despite this speed, our world is in a hurry and we complain about never having enough time. The reality is, we have all the time we need, but the faster we go, as one writer put it, ‘the hurrier I get’. Or in the words of Psychotherapist Carl Jung, ‘Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil!’
I recently saw two seminars offered for church Pastors – ‘Further, Faster – How to Take Your Church Further Faster!’ I wondered to myself where ‘further’ was and why we had to get there fast? The second was entitled ‘Leadership Faster’. I have done leadership ‘fast’ and the results are generally not great. The faster I went the shallower I became, skimming the surface of relationships and decision-making, both wrought with potentially risky outcomes.
It’s interesting that Moses asked those he was leading to ‘stand still’ so he could hear what God was saying to them (Numbers 9:8). Yes, there are times in life we need to make quick decisions, but I have learnt that those moments aren’t really many.
This theme of stillness, of rest and quiet is interwoven throughout Scripture. As our Shepherd, God tells us that He will ‘lead us bedside still waters’ (Psalm 23). The word for ‘still’ in this verse means resting place, quietness. We are also promised that in ‘quietness and confidence we will find strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). Maybe, just maybe, there is something in this being still, being silent and still being fruitful?
I have always been intrigued by and loved verse ten of Psalm forty-six where God defines for us the posture of heart and pace of life we need to live in in order to know Him:
Be still and know that I am God.
The Hebrew word for ‘still’ conveys the sense of to relax, refrain, to be quiet, and to slacken. The word is also from the same group of words for ‘heals’ as in Exodus 15:26 where we are told that God can heal. Speed produces stress, even illness; being still produces rest and the opportunity for healing.
I am on a personal journey of healing from several ‘punches’ to the brain (aka strokes), and the professionals who are assisting me in this process keep telling me that sleep, stillness and even silence, help the brain to heal, renew and restore itself. This has meant making intentional choices to do less as I learn to live life more unplugged. And I've realised that being still and silent before God can be as fruitful as being busy for Him.
God knew that stillness is how we should live healthy in the first place.
That’s why He invites us to meet Him, to get to know Him - to not only hear Him but to follow where He leads and as we do, to be healed by Him through stillness and even in silence. The Father’s in the early church period thought that silence was an integral part of prayer. In the seventh century, Isaac the Syrian described ‘stillness’ as being:
“…a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God. It is standing unceasingly, silent, and prayerful before God.”
We need to find ways to be still; to practice silence so that we can hear the presence of God, allowing Him to restore our soul. We need to realise that sometimes in doing less, we achieve more - that going further faster does not necessarily equal going deeper and being fruitful.
I cannot tell you how or what to do in order for you to find God in the stillness - not without knowing the context of your story and journey - but I can urge you to slow down, be still and know God. To let Him lead you. And I know that as you do, you will be like the trees on my property – your roots will go down deep and rather than being busy, you will be fruitful.
How can you practice silence today?
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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