The Terror of Quiet Stillness

One of the joys of life for me these past months has been to go to my favorite little café two or three times a week. There’s something special, or maybe sad, about not having to place my drink order. The women who run the café see me coming and automatically begin preparing my beverage of choice (tall spiced chai latte). I sit down with a book or two, sometimes three, and enjoy a few hours or reading, writing, or reflecting on the latest Facebook updates.

The other day as I was contemplating words of wisdom as posted on Twitter, I noticed a plaque sitting on the shelf across the table from me. It read, “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”  I had read it before, but its message struck me afresh as I sat there.  I saw it as a message of quiet stillness. Ironically, as I read it, I was facing my open laptop, had a few books to the side, could hear the soft buzz of conversation around me, and was listening to the jazz-like music coming from the café’s radio. Why am I, why are we, afraid to sit and think? I wonder if the fear for many of us isn’t in sitting and thinking but in the quietness that will inevitably go with the stillness.

There’s something terrifying about quiet stillness. I’m afraid of it because I’m afraid of what I’ll hear when there’s no noise to drown out a whisper. When the world around me grows still and becomes quiet, the whispers in my head increase to a shout. I’m bombarded with anxiety, feelings of failure, guilt, and regret. My brokenness and inability to live well seem to mock my feeble attempts to find meaning and purpose. So I keep myself busy. I fill my time with noise. Some of the noise is good and worth listening to.  But all too often its white noise that subtly grates on my nerves and leaves me feeling hollow. Where can a girl find relief?

I have discovered that the relief I long for lies in the quiet stillness I fear. Yes, when I am quiet I am attacked by the noise of my brokenness and disappointments. Yet in the quiet I am also met by the One who fills the silence with the peace of His presence. When I sit quietly and think I discover that God has much to say that I need and long to hear. His voice does not fill me with empty white noise. His words bring life, healing, and refreshment to my soul. The words of Jesus are like cold water to my parched nerves, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”[1] As He quiets me with His love and I learn to trust the truth of His voice, I find strength.[2] I have discovered that quiet stillness is a place of deep intimacy with the God who has redeemed my brokenness. And so, I’m not afraid to sit awhile and think.

[1] Mark 6:31

[2] Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah. 30:15