Be still: Spiritual Journey

with thanks to Chris Margocs for the “Be still” invitation and to Margaret Simon for the “Presence” offering on behalf of our Spiritual Journey writer’s group on this first Thursday in July

Back in March of 2020, four days into COVID-19 lockdown, I wrote a post entitled Be still. It was based on Psalm 46:10, a verse with special significance to me since I was about thirteen, when a youth group leader gave me a little decorative plaque bearing the first line: Be still and know that I am God. The plaque hung on the wall of my bedroom throughout my tumultuous teenage years until I married and left home at twenty. I had no inkling, then, that my young husband would go into the ministry two years later or that we would eventually have two sons, the older of whom would become a pastor and the younger, a music minister and worship leader.

Throughout the decades I’ve received numerous gifts which have borne those words: Be still and know that I am God. The verse keeps returning to me. A few weeks ago my Sunday School co-teacher brought a handful of cards printed with Bible verses, held them out to the class facedown, and had each of us draw one. I drew Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God.

I could write a lot about those eight words, having to do with trusting God in times of trouble and God’s unfailing faithfulness. Overcoming fear and despair. Carving out time away from the demands, vitriol, and horrors of the world. Finding peace in the rhythms of nature surrounding my home in the countryside (I have written a lot about that, actually).

But those eight words are only the opening line.

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

—Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

The verse is a call to be in awe of the power of God, to be a people who carry forth the message of godly peace to the world, by which wars will cease (v. 9), and by which God will be exalted. It is a declarative, definitive statement. On the part of God: It shall be. On the part of humanity: Be awed.

Awe has been my guiding word for the past two years. It is likely to remain so as long as I live. In the context of inherent awe and Psalm 46:10, words of the song “Above All” by Michael J. Smith come to mind:

Above all powers, above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms, above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the Earth
There’s no way to measure what You’re worth

Be still and know…God is above all.

My theologian son is studying the work of Eugene Peterson (1932-2018), minister, author, poet, and Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver. We have recently been discussing The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Peterson’s idiomatic paraphrase of Scriptures, apparently written out of frustration with people not reading their Bibles.

Here’s Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 46:10:

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.”

I cannot think of a more timely message.

I return now to the original Be still post I wrote on March 17, 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. We thought school would be closed for two weeks. We had no idea of all that lay ahead. Extended isolation. Loss. Rampant fear. Exacerbated discord. Death, violence, rage, destruction. War. Rising inflation.

Consider the verses immediately preceding Psalm 46:10, from the ESV translation:

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (6-7).

And then we are told Be still and know that I am God.

Who is above all.

I thought about linking Smith’s song here. Psalm 46 is, after all, a hymn.

I am linking another song instead, one of my longtime favorites for its plaintive beauty and quiet, meditative message—a little rest stop for the soul on the arduous spiritual journey through life in this world that God, incomprehensibly, still loves.

Be still my soul
the Lord is on your side…

Blessings of stillness, rest, and awe to you all.