Be still

Psalm 46:10 is one of my life’s verses: Be still and know that I am God.

It’s appeared, and re-appeared, at various junctures of my life. When I was a teenager, my youth minister presented me with a little plaque bearing this verse. It hung on my bedroom wall until I married and left home.

In recent years, a church member gave my family a stepping stone with Be still and know that I am God etched on it. That stone hangs on my bedroom wall now.

Imagine my delight— awe, rather — on researching quotes by Saint Patrick and discovering Psalm 46:10 and how it’s reduced, a line at a time, to one word:

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

I can’t verify that Patrick actually deconstructed the verse this way, but it’s widely attributed to him. If so, what was he getting at?

My first thought: It’s an admonishment to be still. How fitting for the present time. With a pandemic on the rise, when we are at the mercy of a new ultramicroscopic virus with the power to deconstruct society, we must pull in and be still. Fear not. And wait.

It is not what we do best. We are not patient. We “do” fear and anger far better. We are accustomed to go go go and hurry hurry hurry and get get get. We have to-do lists that are never complete, that only grow longer.

And when do we ever just be?

Maybe right about now.

Oh, and by the way, here’s the whole of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

I shall leave you with the words of Saint Patrick — but not the one you know. This day cannot pass without mention of my grandfather, born in 1906 with the given name Columbus and the middle name St. Patrick (yes, for real). In one of our last phone conversations (his love for me evident in that he would talk to me on the phone, for he hated it; he was hard of hearing), I said, tears streaming, which he couldn’t see, thankfully: “I love you, Granddaddy. You’re safe in God’s hands.”

To which he replied, in his raspy, precious voice: “There’s no better place to be.”

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

—St. Patrick’s Day blessings, dear hearts.

28 thoughts on “Be still

    • Thank you, Clare. I cannot help being fascinated by the fact that it’s something so tiny, not even able to be seen by a regular microscope, that’s caused “the worst crisis in living memory” according to James Dyson (bagless vacuum inventor). Perhaps it is an exercise in humility, leading us to be our better selves … all we can do is take the gifts each day offers and wait it out, living our unfolding story moment by moment with courage. And grace.

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  1. Just the thing I needed to read this morning. Feeling the panic rising over all the days we will be inside with life just stopping. I know it is small sliver of time in the overall, but right now the days stretch before me and I am anxious. I loved reading these words today.

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    • Thank you, Kathleen. Yes, one day we shall look back and tell stories of this time, but for now, the living of the story is daunting. As I write this, my husband is watching an old movie about WWI. I am wondering about all the books and movies to come about COVID-19, when unborn generations will consider us the heroes for stopping time and overcoming. It takes collective strength. Each day. But it will be done. ❤

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  2. My favorite prayer is The Lorica, or Breastplate of St. Patrick. I had never seen the prayer you found, but it is indeed perfect for this event, as is The Lorica, invoking God’s protection and Creation as a source of strength. I am actually looking forward to my husband going off to work today, leaving me with a quiet house; I will indeed spend some time being still in Divine presence.

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    • The Lorica – a profound invocation and praise for strength. I’m not Catholic but I hold to every mighty, glorious word there in St. Patrick’s prayer. I, too, am loving the silence and stillness even if the extent of my power at present is being able to mute or turn off the TV. And to write … maybe it’s a good time to finish Sick Ada’s story … 🙂

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  3. Isn’t it funny how our grandfathers would show their love by doing things they didn’t like? Psalm 46:10 is truly appropriate for this time of uncertainty. I think today I’m going to take some time and read a few Easter Ideals.

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  4. “No better place to be” indeed. Thank you for offering up a moment to sit in the space in which we find ourselves, to be still and quiet among all the background noise, and to take a deep breath.

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  5. Fran, For about 10 years I taught Christian Education in two Episcopal schools. I used Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play and sang with sign language this psalm. It was our way of centering before the Bible story. I would say, “When we sing those words and sign those words, we know it’s time to listen to God’s story.” The words will always be a part of me.

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    • I’ll bet the signs to this verse were beautiful, Margaret. I cannot think of a better signal for preparing to learn from the Bible. The words have returned to me at so many moments in my life – when I needed them most.

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  6. What a timely reminder to “be.” It leads me to think of trust. I remember having a splinter in my knee when I was very young. My dad was trying to remove it, but I was frightened and squirming everywhere. He finally said, “Be still, child, and trust me!” I can imagine God saying, “Be still, child, and trust me.” To be still requires trust. Your grandfather obviously knew that, too. Lovely slice, Fran.

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    • Your splinter story is a perfect illustration for being still and knowing that God’s in control. You’re right about the implication of trust. “Be still” means to rest in that. My grandfather’s faith was simple and strong. Many thanks, Tracy.

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  7. Your slice is lovely and raw, softly lending a bit hope that rests alone in the hands of our Father. “Be still.” I am going to think of this when my focus shifts during this season of uncertainty. Thank you for your reflective, insightful slice.

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