Last Sunday as I was running out the door to church, almost forgetting my shoes in the process, I paused to watch something happening through the kitchen window. A bright-orange, brand-new butterfly was perched on a branch in the sunshine. It sat perfectly still, only occasionally adjusting the position of its wings toward the sun.
I remembered raising a box kit of monarch butterflies when I was in third grade. My brother and I fed the caterpillars leaves, watched them spin chrysalides, and waited impatiently until they emerged as beautiful winged creatures. I remember observing then that butterflies can’t fly immediately after bursting out of the chrysalis. Their wings are still curled up tightly. If they try to fly right away, they fall. First they have to sit and stretch for a while, letting their wings unfurl and absorb sunlight before they can take off. Their first job is to be still.
I’m not very good at being still. I’m goal-oriented and task-oriented; I want to move, act, write, and then quantify my progress with a spreadsheet of results. But sometimes, even when I’ve worked hard, life stalls in the starting gate. For me, sometimes that’s a blog post that won’t come out right. Sometimes it’s the address that still matches my mom’s, the still-anemic bank account, another lonely Valentine’s Day, an economy that doesn’t look kindly on English majors, or a novel that still looks like raw meat. You know the feeling? God, am I going anywhere? When is my life going to start? It’s like drifting in a ship at sea with no wind to fill your sails. Sailors call it the doldrums.
That’s when I hear Him whisper: Be still and know that I am God.
When my life is zooming along busily, He often gets lost in a shuffle of papers. Sometimes He has to put my life on hold to make me stop. Breathe. Remember Him. Knowing Him is the best thing in life. A job, an apartment of my own—those are things I want, but they can wait. When my pursuit of them gets in the way of my pursuit of Him, sometimes He has to tell the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!”
Maybe waiting is actually a form of action when I’m waiting upon the Lord. It’s not the same as twiddling my thumbs for the wind to pick up. Times of stillness can be times of growth, opportunities to know Him better, necessary for my wings to unfurl in the light of His presence. Be still and know that I am God. There will come a time for flying, but right now my labor is to wait upon Him.
I choose today to be still, in echo of the words of the prophet Isaiah: I will wait for the Lord…I will put my trust in Him.
Image credit: HaarFager at en.wikipedia