Learn to be Still

Corrie Ten Boom, famed Dutch Christian and Holocaust survivor, would use a clever phrase during her many talks: “If the Devil can’t make you bad,” she would say, “he will make you busy.” In our society, this diabolical work seems to have succeeded masterfully.  

Americans, maybe more than any other group of people, have an unrelenting need to be busy with something all the time; to occupy ourselves with unending distractions; to fill every waking minute with activity. And it’s not just work. It’s play, screen time, gaming, browsing, binge-watching, shopping: Anything, so long as we are not left to do nothing.

Some of the busiest people I know are using such activity as medication. They can’t be alone with themselves, their fears, their insecurities, their past, or their anxieties about the future, so they keep an assiduous schedule and impossible pace. This keeps them from having to face the gaping hole inside themselves. 

Hard work is good, for sure, and idle hands forever prove to be the “Devil’s toolbox.” Yet, if one uses activity to hide, staying busy to keep from doing the work of the soul, then that person is not a dependable, faithful workhorse. That person is sick, suffering from the same affliction that creates alcoholics and addicts.

I know, for I have lived this lifestyle, making myself busy so that I was needed, when in fact, I was just needy. I would create a schedule so demanding, that I did not have time to think, because I didn’t want to take the time to think. Much of my ambition to do worthy work was to prove myself worthy; and trying to achieve something was my substitute for being something.

I’m reminded of the Gospel text where Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary, sisters with two different approaches to life. Martha – busy like most of us – exhausted herself with work. Mary sat quietly at the feet of Jesus. Martha was scattered, torn, and “as unsettled as a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Mary was resolved and still.

“Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over many things!” Jesus said. And showing the sagacity of being the Master, he said, “Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary had nothing to prove, nothing to chase, and nothing for which to work. She had “it,” the contentment that comes from learning to be still in the Presence of love.

Make no mistake: You are loved. You – the real, klutzy, goofy, insecure, always second-guessing, over-extending, mistake-making you. You just may not have been quiet long enough to know this. So, sit with it. Rest in it. “Be still and know” it. 

Rumi said, “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear, for stillness is the language of God, and in silence there is no rejection.” Learn to be still, and you will begin the real work demanded of us all.