Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
As an ADHD sufferer, I confess that this verse has always given me the heebie jeebies. In high school, I was the girl sitting in the back row of class. If any class lasted longer than 8 seconds, my body rebelled by vibrating in active movement. Leg bouncing up and down under a desk, fast enough to rival the wings of a hummingbird.
“Beth Carroll, sit STILL”, my Geometry teacher would scold in irritation. No matter how hard I tried, the kinetic energy of my brain could not quiet my restless body. Stillness represented a state I was too defective to attain.
Today that message infiltrates more than just my jittery body. Keeping my ADHD company in adulthood is my new friend — anxiety. What ADHD did to my body, anxiety one-upped with my brain. Spiraling tornadoes of “what ifs” raze the landscape of my rationality.
- What if I am fired from my job for my lack of organization?
- What if that mosquito bite was actually a spider bite, or worse a brown recluse spider bite?
- What if I accidentally eat E. Coli laced romaine lettuce, despite it being recalled?
- What if I forget to wash my hands after going to the grocery store and mindlessly pick a piece of Romaine lettuce from my teeth?
- What if someone I love gets the virus?
- What if life never returns to normal?
- What if I get really sick and there’s no room in the hospital for me?
What if, what if, what if, what if.
All of this is enough to quarantine myself to my dark bedroom, distancing myself from my brain and society.
If being still is the requisite for knowing God, what hope is there for someone with ants in her pants and in her head?
On occasion, I get lucky and a helpful “what if” plants itself solidly in my brain. Yesterday was such a day.
What if this sort of stillness has nothing to do with my capacity for calmly and placidly centering myself so that God is revealed to me, but actually means something completely different?
I went to Psalm 46 to see for myself. In this psalm, disaster is everywhere. There are earthquakes and tsunamis. The foundations of the earth are being shaken and there is a threat that our very creation is being undone. The instability in the political realm is just as severe. Nations are in an uproar. Kingdoms totter. Society as it has been known is on the brink of collapse. Sound eerily familiar?
Yet Psalm 46 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change.” Two words jumped out at me: “we” and “fear.”
Newsflash: the future of the earth’s survival doesn’t sit on my shoulders. The fate of humanity does not rest in the hands of one lone virologist holed up in a lab trying to find an immunization. The solution to a corrupt political system does not lie in exchanging one orange-haired leader for another. The future of the world does not hinge on any one of us sitting still on our own and knowing God.
Our redemption lies in seeing the tumult, destruction, death, despair, illness, and dysfunction in us and around us and knowing we can stand in this together. Even if we are kept in our separate homes, we watch for what God is doing around us, before us, and especially with us.
To be still and know God is to allow God to settle the collective anxiety and inner squirrel in our hearts, even when the media incites us to fear. We can know that in such cosmic brokenness, God still chooses us and chooses creation.
This is not a stillness we muster so we can strain ourselves to hear and know God. This stillness is the awe that leaves us gobsmacked when we see the transformation possible if we think and imagine as communities and congregations and not as loners. We do not still ourselves to know of God’s love and power. It is an awareness of God’s power and love that stills us.
- What if this season is one where the church is reinvented?
- What if our limited confines bring about unlimited possibility in relationships, creativity, and unity?
- What if this present time is not meant for the destruction of creation, but actually the birth pangs of something redeemed?
- What if we are being called to connect our gifts in new and exciting ways to the hurt all around us?
What if? What if? What if? What if?
I think these questions are worth being stilled to hear the answers, even with our jittery hearts, bodies, and minds.