“Be still, my soul.”
It was Saturday morning, and it was early. I silently walked through the field in the night’s final moonlight – there was time and to spare for me to get to the pond and get still before the sun began to brighten the horizon. With delight, I found a cedar tree right at the edge of the pond which afforded me natural camouflage and an earthen recliner of sorts among its roots. The dim, bluesilver moonlight was not enough to bring the edges of trees and fences into contrast, and everything was blended together in the half-clarity of mostlydark. It was still. It was beautiful. The earth was soft and the cedar warm. So I sat, and waited.
The reflection of treeshapes and hills in the pond water was nearly flawless – an mirror yet unbroken by the flurry of day. The cedar tree, despite the slow breath of wind which seemed to flow down the hill behind me and over the lake, was as unmoving as an oak. The earth beneath hadn’t moved in centuries. The deer were not yet out feeding. The sky seemed static. All was still. Nothing moved. All was quiet.
And my soul was still. My soul did not move. My soul was quiet.
The weight of the forest’s silence, the heavy twilight of the early morning, the beauty of the pond pressed calmly upon me like a heavy quilt on a winter evening. The normal fidgeting of my mind was subdued beneath quiet awe, like the erratic movement of an infant is stilled by swaddling clothes.
In thinking on that morning, it is easier for me to understand what the Biblical writers means when they say, “Be still oh my soul…Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…”. What can it mean for a soul to be still? What causes a soul to be not at rest?
The conclusion I have come to is this: the times when my soul is most still and most at rest are the times when I am most fully anchored to the unmoving Rock. If I am tied to the rock, my soul does not budge. But if I am tied to worldly things, passing fads, or passions of the flesh, then my soul will be jerked and tumbled like a windswept wave.
A sailor stands on the deck of a ship, when of a sudden a tremendous storm blows up. The crew, seeing that the storm has put the ship beyond their control, find that they must simply hang on for dear life. One sailor binds himself with rope to the bottom of the mainmast – as secure a place as any. Another sailor climbs up the mast and ties his rope to a powerfully flapping corner of the sails. Which will remain still? The rope which binds the one sailor to the flapping sail will jerk him in directions he does not wish to go. Fight against it as he might, the cord binding him to that furious windcatch will refuse to let him be still.
Likewise, if there are cords tying my soul to those things which are moved by the wind rather than (or even in addition) to the One whom the wind obeys, then my soul will be jerked and tossed and restless. But if I cut the cords which tie me to worldly desires, and slash the ropes which bind me to windblown passions, and secure myself to the Anchor – it is then that my soul is still and at rest.
Stillness of soul cannot be achieved when the soul is tied to or set upon anything which moves or fluctuates. The tempestuous sea of worldly desires, the consuming fire of sin, the windblown wandering of faithlessness – how can a soul be still when it is tied to these?
When I sat beneath the cedar tree, my ties to worldly concerns were cut. There were no phones ringing, no expectations to meet, to glittery things to lust over. There was simply the creation, binding my heart to the Creator with its soothing testimony.
If you would speak the words, “Be still, my soul,” and if you would then pursue a soul which is at rest, here is what you must do:
–Search out the movement of your heart in order to discern what things disturb your soul’s stillness. Is it worry? Is it busy-ness? Is it sin? Find what tugs at your soul. Pray and beg for God’s mercy in showing you these things.
–When you find the cords which bond your heart to unrestful things, cut them if you can. Sever the cord to sin at all costs! Untie yourself from worldly expectations and greed. If you cannot cut them (for instance, in the case of responsibilities and work which are required of you), work to strengthen the cord tying you to Christ. Set aside time to ignore your tasks and simply strengthen the ropes which tie you to your Savior. Pray and beg for God’s mercy to break the bonds which tie you.
–Press against the Rock, and let the Rock press against you. Fill your mind with the weighty beauty of Scripture, allowing the Word to reveal Jesus to your soul. Feast on the Bread of Heaven, and indulge your soul by placing yourself in His presence often. No soul is more still than the one fat and satisfied from constant feasting on heavenly Bread. Pray, begging for God’s mercy, and wait for Him to satisfy you.
Be still, soul. Cut the ropes which force you to stumble and fall. Cling to the Rock. Sit in the quiet morning of His presence. Recline beneath the peaceful branches of the Tree of Life. Build your bed on the Foundation. Let the weight of the Word press down on your restless soul.
Be still, soul. Be anchored to the unmoving glory of Jesus. Wait patiently for Him.
Be still, soul.