Our culture constantly pressures us to remain busy and engaged. Especially in the age of the iPhone and the Internet, it bombards us with projects, activities, to-do lists, urgent text, and entertainment. Even within the church, we generally feel pressure to perform. Although there is a perfunctory emphasis on having a “Quiet Time,” most of us focus on outward works. Do you take meals to the sick? Do you teach Sunday school? Have you been on a mission trip? Are you evangelizing your neighbors? Sometimes we forget that the God said, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
In his book, Be Still and Know: God’s Presence in Silence, Norris Chumley gives an extensive history of the practice of hesychia, a method of retreating from the world to focus on God. He explores the origin of the practice and visits several modern monasteries where hesychia is still practiced. Along with the book, he has produced a corresponding film to help modern believers learn to seek God in silence.
He says, “The mystery of creation is that the Creator is present inside, behind, above, and below what He has created! There is no separation between God and creation. This is a major tenet of Orthodox teaching. This means he is also present in each of us. If we make the worldly things of creation a priority, we miss the subtlety of the Creator. Therefore, to sense the image of God in us, to completely realize and experience that we are created in His likeness, a diminution of stimuli is also required. Remove the material and the worldly and become completely silent and still, and God the Father is there, awaiting us. Through His grace, divinity is revealed within us.”
For the last several months, I have made more a concentrated effort to create spaces of quiet in my life. The stories in Be Still and Know encourage me to continue and increase that practice. This week, I think I will begin to include the Jesus Prayer in my meditation, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
Will you join me?
Visit the Patheos Book Club to read an excerpt from Be Still and Know.
Anna Quinn and her family live in Tennessee, where she is inordinately involved in church and school volunteering, fundraising (chocolate, anyone?), and chauffeuring. She is learning to say “no” and prays that maybe, occasionally, she throws some decent mothering into the mix. Writing still holds a mystique, and Anna now employs her Vanderbilt University degree writing book reviews and cultural articles for the e-zine Six Seeds.tv.