Being Still - Creation


We were created to spend times, working but also resting. So often we can feel like Bilbo Baggins: ‘Why I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean; like butter that has been scrapped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change or something.’[1]

As we manoeuvre through the chicanes of life, we wonder if this what life is about. We question as to whether Jesus meant this when He would give us life to the full (John 10: 10).
There is the temptation to sympathise and even empathise with the lyrics of a song from the 1970s:

So many things I don’t understand
So many things I need to know
My life’s not working out the way they planned
Is there some other way I ought to go
I need some time to think
I need some time to think
I’m just a student on the path of life
I’m just somebody seeking out the truth
I only want to know what’s wrong or right
Don’t put me down just cause I am a youth
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down

My teachers told me what I need to know
They shoved so many things right on my plate
They said eat it if I wanna grow
I’d like a little time to cogitate
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down

Feel like a ship in a bottle, I’m frightened that I’ll get lost
I need somebody to help me make it across
Feel like a tune with no beat, somebody help me
Take away this cross, won’t you let me be free
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down
I need some time to think – I need some time to think
I need some time to let my brain cool down

So many things I don’t need
So many things that I need to know
My life’s not working out the way they planned
Is there some other way I ought to go
I need some time to think
I need some time to think[2]

We are not very good at slowing down, let alone being still. It used to be case in the United Kingdom that, if there was a queue, you would join it. There was the patient waiting in lines for public transport or in the shop, but this is becoming increasing rare. We are bypassing humanity by rushing to put our shopping away into our carrier bags, without one concern for the till assistant – for, if we were to ask after their day, our fellow customers would be showing their intolerance in the queue behind.

A survey in the United Kingdom discovered that we were not prepared to wait for the following:

·         Waiting for a web page to load – 10 seconds
·         Waiting for a drink at a bar – 5 minutes
·         Phoning a utility company – 8 minutes
·         Delayed train – 13 minutes
·         Waiting for a bus – 13 minutes
·         Date running late – 17 minutes
·         Friend said that they’ll call you back – 18 minutes
·         Waiting for food after first ordering – 24 minutes
·         Hearing from someone after a date – 2  days

A spokesman for the parcel comparison site Interparcel (who commissioned the research) commented: ‘It’s interesting to see the limits in the various scenarios, and how strong the British patience is, in an age where things move fast. The results provide a revealing insight.’[3]

Not only are we being less patient but our interpersonal skills are decreasing. In a study by Canadian and American researchers that was published in Current Biology, it was ascertained that stress was the reason that we find it hard to emphasise with someone we do not know. When students were treated with a stress-blocking drug, they became more empathetic and more compassionate to strangers.

Dr Jeffrey Mogul, the study author and neuroscientist from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, stated that his team’s findings suggest that the stress system in the brain can have a ‘veto’ on our empathy system.[4]

The same research also discovered that three out of the four respondents believed that the internet was responsible for demanding things quicker.

The spokesman continued: ‘Even in our personal lives we expect quicker responses and regular contact. The internet means we expect more from businesses and services we use.’[5]

The onslaught of busyness and the constant feeling of being overwhelmed will be manifested in the difficulty in focussing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, the inability to sleep adequately, together with mental and physical fatigue. Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and the director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the John Hopkins Hospital, explained that it was a vicious circle of emotional distress leading to trouble with sleep and fatigue, with the consequence of the lack of sleep and fatigue resulting in more anxiety, so activating the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, triggering the release of the stress hormone cortisol.[6]

Relationships

We can often have problems with relationships. Researchers  undertook and experiment  to show the power of emotional silence.

Parents and adult children were brought into a sterile room, one parent-child set at a time, to stand and face each other for four minutes, being totally still and quiet with no distractions. When the broadcaster showed the study, they did not show all of the four minutes, but they did communicate the powerful emotions that came to the surface because of the emotions that were stirred.

One mother recorded how she looked into her son’s face and was reminded of the moment he was born.

A son expressed the gratitude that he felt as he thought about the sacrifices that his mother had made for him.

A father told of the potential that he foresaw in his daughter’s future.[7]

Rather than the wall-to-wall activities that we plan for children, it is the quality of the time and attention that we give them. Dr Rachel Andrews, a psychologist, comments: ‘Simply hang out together and that you’re in tune with them by verbally observing what they’re doing.’ She continued: ‘Your kids will get the message they’re important because they’re getting your undivided attention. Plus, not having to orchestrate every moment is calming for you and confidence-building for them, because you’re responding to them.’[8]

Looking after ourselves

We can often neglect our own wellbeing as we are rushing about. We will be no good to others, be it those that we care for or for our companies, if we choose to disregard the need of our own bodies.

Karl Lagerfeld commented: ‘Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.’[9]

Paul reminds us that: ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your body.’ (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20)

God has made us to be holistic beings so we should be looking after every part of us – mind, body and soul. It will mean that we will require down time to recuperate. God made every molecule of our being  and saved us in total so He has an interest in how we treat it.
There is no problem in looking after well-earned possessions like houses or cars, or well-loved relationships like our friends or family. However, we have a tendency to treat ourselves shabbily. It could be that we think that we are not ‘worth it’ (as an advertising slogan proclaimed) or that we think that we must sacrifice ourselves on the altar of looking after others first.

It is contrary to Gospel thinking as Jesus thought highly of us that He came to rescue us so that we would be in eternal relationship with Him forever for His glory. When we neglect our bodies, minds and souls, we are neglecting the very things that He made and are saying, in effect, that what He made was not good enough. Although we claim to worship God on Sundays, for all the time outside of the church, we may be abusing the very things He created by viewing our beings of no effect and ill-treating them. There is a truism in the saying that ‘God doesn’t make rubbish.’

It is often said, usually in jest, that ‘my body is a temple.’ The truth is that, if we have been redeemed by the cross of Christ, our bodies are inhabited by the Holy Spirit.  

Natural World

It was a cold winter’s night  and the snow had made driving to our church for the carol service impossible. As a result, Deborah and I decided to walk, trudging through the deep drifts. Part of our journey along the public footpath took us through a field, where there was illumination only coming from a solitary streetlight. We were the only people around and it felt like Narnia! We were delighting in what God had created; indeed, we could be described as revelling in it.

David expressed his joy in God’s hand in creation: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ (Psalm 19: 1 – 4)

There is no intention of worshipping the sun, moon and starts but the Creator who made all of these objects.

One of the emotions that came from that memorable night was how God is the great creator – a fact that we know doctrinally, but we rarely express experientially. It is easier to look at a field of snow and complain about the impact, rather than concentrating on individual snowflakes and marvel at how intricately they are made.

I would encourage that you take that walk in the countryside in order that you might boost your endorphins, making us happier and healthier. In the moments of appointed breaks in our life, we will be able to assess the challenges that face us.[10]

Richard J Foster reminds us: ‘We do not learn adoration on the grand cosmic scale by centring on the grand and cosmic, at least not at first. It simply wears us out and defeats us to start in this way. We learn about the goodness of God…by watching a butterfly…watch the birds and the squirrels and the ducks. Watch, do not evaluate, watch.’[11]

The words of the hymn sum it up wonderfully:

Heaven above is softer blue.
Earth around is sweeter green:
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow.
Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.

Things that were wild alarms
Cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms,
Pillowed on the loving breast.
Oh, to lie forever here,
Doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear,
I am His, and He is mine.[12]

Points to ponder:
·         How can you slow down and notice the work of God’s hands right now?
·         How can you encourage others to do the same?

Closing quote: Albert Einstein said: ‘The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.’[13]


[1] J R R Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings (Harper Collins, London, 1995) p. 32
[2]After the Fire, Laser Love album (Columbia Records, 1979)
[3]‘Patience? It  is virtually running out,’ Metro, 28 January 2015
[4]‘Stress is ‘a barrier to feeling empathy for strangers’,’ BBC News, 16 January 2015, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30831145
[5]‘Patience? It  is virtually running out,’ Metro, 28 January 2015
[6]Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, ‘The Cult of Busy,’ John Hopkins Health Review, Spring/Summer 2016, volume 3 issue 1, https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/the-cult-of-busy
[7]‘Face-to-Face: Parents, Children Share Four Minutes of Emotional Silence,’ NBC News, 19 December 2016, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/face-face-parents-children-share-four-minutes-emotional-silence-n693196
[8] Go with the slow,’ Boots Health & Beauty, July/August 2018
[10]Florence Williams, The Nature Fix – why nature makes us happier, healthier and more insurmountable (W W Norton and Co, London, 2017)
[11]Richard J Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2008), quoted Slowing and Silence (8 November 2018), Bible Society, https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/daily-reflection/silence-solitude-thursday-26-june/
[12]Hymn ‘Loved with everlasting love,’ words: George Wade Robinson, music: James Mountain, verses 2 and 3

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