Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 3

By Michael Gallup

Be Still.

This verse is found in the midst of something strange to us, Hebrew poetry. This poetry is not concerned with rhyme but with structure. It is full of parallels and chiasms, full of acrostics and musical instructions, full of Selahs.

Hebrew scholars have encountered much difficulty translating this term which litters the Psalms. There is no consensus as to what is meant by this ancient Hebrew term, yet some have believed Selah suggests a pause or break in the poetry; a time to stop and reflect on the glory of Yahweh revealed in the verses.

If you apply that approach, it can offer much color and depth to your reading of the Psalms. We encounter words such as “Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory. Selah” And as we chew on this audacious statement, awe and wonder begin to immerse us. He is the King of glory indeed.

However, due to the questions surrounding Selah, some translations and many readers simply skip over or remove this word. A word which in essence says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Maybe our culture hasn’t the patience to reflect anymore. We want our scripture and our God like we want our food: fast, instant, microwaved.

Just as Hebrew has become foreign to our culture so has reflection and consequently so has awe and wonder. Yet in a foreign tongue which we can miraculously understand, the Merciful Spark pleads for reflection, pleads the ‘Selah’, and pleads for the ‘be still.’

As a youngster, I would avoid my chores like the plague, even though they were not so difficult. I would rather do anything other than unload the dishwasher. I can hear my mother say, “Michael, will you unload the dishwasher?”

“I will Mom.” And I would change the channel.

“Michael, did you unload the dishwasher yet?”

“I said ‘I would’ didn’t I, Mom?” And I read another comic book.

“Michael Alan Gallup, unload the dishwasher right now!”

“I WILL!” And yet, I often never did and in the miraculous event that I did, I missed the joy of serving one who had given her life for me. I missed the joy of obedience.

God calls to us, “Be still” and we reply with, “I will.” And yet we often never do. When we do find time to be silent it is often spent thinking over what we didn’t get accomplished that day or what we have to do next and we miss out on the joy of listening to the One who gave His life for us. We miss the joy obedience.

God wants us to do more than to simply follow an order, to do more the merely sit still; He desires that we quiet our entire beings and let Him fill us up. However, we often see this as a colossal waste of time; our list of duties is just too overwhelming to add another time consuming task such as being still. Clothes need washing, bills need paying, papers need writing, calls need making, books need reading, dinner needs cooking and if there is time, perhaps we might read a scripture or two so we don’t feel so bad about ourselves when we lay down at night.

Carl Jung said that “Hurry is not of the devil; it is the devil.” I read these words and a shocking revelation comes over me, I have become a friend of the devil.

My disobedience has produced a lifeless life, one that is rapidly being choked out by busyness, yet in the midst of that stranglehold of darkness, light breaks in and the Spark of Mercy demands for me to be still.

And I am shown that this is not just another part of my schedule but it is something that penetrates deeply into the cracks of my life. I stop filling in the moments with noise and distraction and I begin filling them with God.

Michael is finding freedom from worry and hurry in exciting ways yet still feels distance from the One. He is a busy person surrounded by grace. He sells chicken for a living and tries to be a husband and father. He is currently a student at Denver Seminary. You can read his blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Be Still, Hurried thoughts on Silence, part 3

  1. John Moyer

    Choked out by business, constant distraction, Blackberrys, iPad screens, constant wanting to keep connected, Facebook. So where do we develop the discipline to go to the Lord and give him even 60 seconds of undivided attention, quality human brain time? As you said, in order to penetrate the crack of my life, the Spark, being aware of tiny 60 second opportunities.

  2. Georgie-ann

    “Did you feed the ducks yet?” All day long — starting before breakfast — every single day, until I would finally walk with the kids over to the little farm yard pond at sunset, to help to make sure that the ducks would get fed. It was a daily ritual, especially in summer.

    They never lied — “No, ma, not yet!” And they stayed otherwise very busily occupied all day long in the “most funnest” of ways — (mostly setting up games of seasonal sports, and/or riding bikes, with the neighborhood kids) — if there wasn’t any real way to “help” the farmers. We were happy. I think I considered it my “duty” to require certain things of them, whether or not they always complied immediately — gentle reminders that “Life” had need of them, to BE there, to BE responsible, to help/serve someone or something else, other than their natural preoccupation with themselves.

    Fond memories.

    I see many “modern” tv-addicted families these days, with enough unrest and internal schisms going on (intra- & inter-personal), to warrant suggesting the precious prayer of true inner quiet time with God. We even have a 24-hour chapel available to the community. There are those who find it, but many more do not.

    Most of my friends would rather gripe than pray,…stay at home, immoveable, at loggerheads with each other in long worn-out stalemated roles, rehashing the same old “going nowhere” attitudes that they nonetheless perpetually decry — “full of (conflict,) sound and fury, signifying (virtually) nothing.” They want to stay at, hold on to, this “familiar” level. They fear loosening their “collective grip” on each other, — becoming responsible for themselves, each one as a special and precious entity before God. In this way — clinging “to the common mold” — they miss the greatest potential of their destiny, getting to know God and themselves in the most personally affirming of ways — “deep calling unto deep.”

    It often seems to me to be a childish fear of “being left alone,” something we’ve never really moved beyond culturally, — a fear of “growing up” in this personally, individually, responsible way.

    Which outer distraction(s) could we choose to sacrifice, do without, to make more room for God? — to invite Him into our lives with the attention and respect that He deserves? The “Holy Spirit is a Gentleman,” is something we hear from time to time. He will not force Himself on mankind, and, as God, He will have “no other Gods before Him.” It is all too easy to “block out His (still, small, but powerful) Voice” with our modern electronic hook-ups, or simply a constantly over-loaded schedule, or a worried, contentious mind.

    It seems to me, that the choice is ours. A lot of “good people” are missing something much better, because they haven’t learned how to cross this bridge. The signs “pointing the way” have not been posted for us by our culture — in fact, quite the opposite, distractions and false paths abound!

    Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.”

    Reading some appropriate spiritual literature, allowing time to close one’s eyes, pause, and breathe, is a good way to begin: Selah.

    May your meditations and contemplations on God’s Awesomeness and Goodness and Eternal Love for us bring you much Peace!

    Amen.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Sacred, Holy, are words that mean “set apart” from the “usual,” earthly, mundane. Nature/”life” — abhoring a vacuum — will always come up with “something or other” to distract or fill our moments. But do we simply play a passive role in this — letting “whatever happens” happen?

    I think it is hard to find time “especially for God” in our natural lives. And I would recommend ASKING God to help us in bringing these opportunities about, — even just a few minutes at a time, — never becoming discouraged. The process and the intention seem to be cumulative — all the little efforts adding up to a repository, a “place” inside that we can recognize and “go to”/return to, like an “inner garden.” Possibly a special time set apart, or a special place set apart, or both, may become established as a small haven and respite from the world’s pressures and never-ending demands. (“If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!”)

    My “codependent eyes” were somewhat opened when I recognized that many of the “life things” that seemed to “need me”/depend on ME, were actually just “used to me” being there, and relied on me more “automatically,” as their default option, than as a truly personal necessity, and could get along just fine without my direct input and interference for much of the time! (It “hurts a little” when we first see and admit this to ourselves, but the end result is very freeing for everybody, in many cases!)

    Less time being codependently “needed” by life, gives more free time for God! This can be a delicate balancing act, — lived throughout one’s days and years, — whereby we can nourish ourselves, our relationship with God, and those around us with greater harmony and wisdom, than what may have been our own aculturated default setting at one time.

    There is always room to grow in knowing and loving our infinite and welcoming God — Father, Brother, and Holy Spirit. Often, the choice is ours!

    Selah.

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