Paul Moore: Rest in the Lord — the spiritual art and craft of stillness
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
It’s hard to be still — to not want to fill the time and space in our lives with “stuff.” Hard to wait on what the Lord has in mind for what we perceive as emptiness, and he sees as an opportunity to be a greater part of our lives.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with being still. I’d go so far as to say I consider being still as a spiritual art — and I’m no artist. I can still picture the scenes when my brothers and I were small (our dear Mom had five boys in eight years before a six-year reprieve and the blessing of a daughter). Mom would be trying to get us out the door to school or Mass or some other occasion where she wanted us to look halfway presentable.
Our fidgeting, squirming, and whining made her job difficult, and she’d say, “Be still.” Her loving if insistent voice had a momentary calming effect, though it was kind of like the dog that stops barking for a second: we couldn’t quite let ourselves succumb to the peace.
At last, she would triumphantly say, “There!” The unruly cowlick would be tamed, or the tight little shirt button under the chin looped, and we were free. She might add a postscript under her breath, “My heavens, one would think I was trying to do them in.”
A TIME TO WAIT, A TIME TO POUNCE
In such situations being still was — and is — almost painful to my restless spirit. I rationalize that I want to be ready for “action,” although exactly what type of action is always unspecified. Truth is, by not allowing myself to be still I may be less ready for action, moving in the wrong direction when the right way becomes clear. At the very least I’ve burned off some energy that just might be useful down the road.
In the natural order, God gives predators the sense to wait until the optimal moment to pounce. If you’ve ever seen a cat waiting on a mouse, or a fox over a mole hole, they wait, stock still. Instinct tells them that if they move before the time is right, they may scare off their prey.
In the same way, my restless spirit can “scare off” its own opportunities to rest in the Lord. Too bad I don’t have the instinctual mandate to wait on Him, but that’s the price of free will.
TURN DOWN THE VOLUME IN A LOUD WORLD
This new year of 2022, I’m getting the sense that the Lord would like me to be still more often.
Today, we channel-surf with a remote. When I was a kid . . . OK, anyone under 50, this is your cue to take out the violins . . . we had to walk over to the TV and flip through the channels with a pair of pliers in your hand (as the channel knob was always broken). The person delegated to get up from the couch to perform this duty wasn’t going to stand there forever, so we’d reach a consensus, and that was that.
The TV remote is so named because it allows us to flip through the channels remotely — and increasingly it seems to me — endlessly. It strikes me that in a deeper sense I can become “remote” from my Lord by the same process of ceaselessly searching down every path but the one that leads to him. He can’t help me to tidy up this or that corner of my life if I won’t consent to stop and wait for his Spirit to lead mine.
Though I’m no spiritual artist stillness-wise, I must craft a space in my heart to store the things of the Lord, so that I might imitate his Blessed Mother, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
We have just come through Advent and Christmas, yet we wait in hopefulness as members of his Church for the second “Christmas” coming of the Lord, and the Advent of our eternal home in Heaven.
In the meantime, it’s a loud world. Just like Mom couldn’t tame that cowlick without a little cooperation from me, if I want to hear his “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), I must turn down the volume and listen.
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.