On being still, not silent

Posted by on Aug 14, 2022 in Blog | 2 comments

beach calm cloud dawn

I recently listened to a fascinating podcast where Alastair McIntosh reflects on Quakerism and unpacks some of its convictions. In a throw away comment he notes that it is often said that Quakers gather together in silence (no drums of smoke machines for them !) but that this is not entirely accurate – they gather together in stillness. He goes on to quote Ps 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”, which is not the same as saying “Be silent and know that I am God.”

Silence or stillness, is there a difference?

Most assuredly there is. We live in a noisy world. We can escape to places of silence, and it is wise to periodically do so. If you are an introvert you might sometimes feel desperate to find places of quiet, places which enable you to refresh, renew and re-energise your self. If you are an extravert you might not find that as important. Inner stillness is, however, a different thing. It can be found in the loudest of settings – indeed, it is often in the rush of too much adrenalin and when we are in the midst of too many decibels that we most need to be still deep inside our inner being.

What does the stillness we need look like?

It is when we have bad news, perhaps terrible news, but experience an inner calm within.

It is when we sense God in the midst of the storm – be that storm literal or figurative. It is the moment when we hear God saying “Be still” and are then able to accept the invitation that follows, “and know that I am God.”

That’s it. It’s the stillness that comes from knowing that God is God. It doesn’t stop chatter or planning or exploring options, but it means that each takes place against a deep awareness of a wider reality – God is God, and, therefore, as Julian of Norwich so famously said “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Is this too passive a stance? It certainly sounds different to Dylan Thomas’s lines: “Do not go gentle into that dark night… Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Well – perhaps they were talking about different things. And perhaps they are not entirely different, for when we are still, we know what to fight back against, and what to more calmly accept.

Actually it is only when we are still within that we find the courage to not be silent. Speaking, as in speaking up, takes great inner strength, for not all truths are popular and when you stand for justice there are many who will try to silence your voice. We don’t always need silence, but we do need stillness, even though stillness might only come after much inner turmoil.

My prayer for you and me this week is that we will be still, deep within. Still enough to see and trust God when things don’t go to plan, still enough to be courageous, still even if we have to stop being silent, and speak against a thousand other voices.

As always, nice chatting…

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks Brian. I will use this in my weekly message to parents. I observe that so many do not know how to be still or where to find the Source of peace in stillness.

    • Thanks Phillip. Very glad that it can be of use.

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