Be Still


Jenny Rose Foster -Be Still3

I grew up traveling the waterways with the canoe and the kayak for the purpose of adventure. My father taught me how to use a paddle, how to maneuver and manipulate the boat, how to enter into the untamed white water at the right angle, at the right time.

He took my sisters and me on rafting journeys through the mountain desert of Oregon, on the Deschutes and John Day River. It was our tradition. We camped along the way, parking our rafts onto the banks, exploring the hills, watching out for snakes, playing in the water. We sang songs and told stories, but most of all we listened. We listened to the wind. We listened to the waters, the ripples, and the rhythm. We listened to the silence.

In the listening, and in the slow process of our journeys, I could feel God’s heart vibrantly beating through it all. The wild spaces have always been my first sanctuary.

I remember the first time my father let me take my own kayak down the river. I got to hold my paddle as my tool. It was by my hands and my strength that the water-craft moved. Not by engine, but simply by physical movement in sync with the flow. The dipping motion into the buttery water, thrilled me.

I found myself in those moments. I was able to steep my mind’s heart into worlds of wonderment … pondering, thinking, observing and dreaming without much interruption. I couldn’t have been more content. The slow water paths and the fast ones—all of it in a beautiful balanced rhythm.

This summer I have felt the rhythm of the river calling me back, to the pace that God taught me at a young age, to the pace that brings me the only kind of peace that I know how to find. As an adult, I have often lost touch with that place within me where God showed me as a child how to “Be still.”

“[Be Still!] See the marvels of God!
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,
Bans war from pole to pole,
breaks all the weapons across his knee.
‘Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.’ ”
—Psalm 46:10

Oh Peacemaker, my God Almighty! My soul, it longs for tranquility amongst the raw pain and groanings of this earth. My spirit thirsts and tires in desperation for that space of rest. Along the river, I can see the choir of glory and I can hear the hallelujahs amongst the Artist’s flowers and trees. What a grand sanctuary of love!

My God, the peacemaker of all that is, conducts a relentless work of beauty, but often at a pace that I don’t quite understand at first. A pace that calls for rest.

I have found that rest is not a passive state of being. Rest is an embrace. Rest is a release. Rest is meditative. Rest is purposeful, thoughtful and insightful.

When I am on the river, I cannot control the pace. Sometimes the movement forward is at a crawl, sometimes it is steady, and sometimes the waters are rushing swiftly. But if I give into the current, I find rest.

What I love about the river is that it keeps me in the pace at which it flows. I can paddle relentlessly and force myself to go through the slow waters at a quicker pace, or I can simply pause and release my instinct to control and embrace the slow motion to match the rhythm of the river. In those moments, I see the bald eagle on a tree branch taking off into flight. I see fish swimming below me. I see the ferns, the lichen, the yarrow. I smell the water, the air, the trees. I feel peace and I remember God.

Too often though, the speed of life and time feels locked in at the pace of the white water. The river teaches me the rhythm of God. And if I remember to just LET IT BE, and to BE STILL within the pace at which I am at, then I can relent my will to something bigger than myself. And then I can breathe … breathe it all in so deeply. To inhale … And to exhale…

To breathe in the love and release the pain.
To breathe in the peace and release the tension.
To breathe in the hope and release the fears.
Breath … by breath

Try this, right now in this moment: Inhale … exhale … and breathe.

I need to breathe more. To simply breathe deep.

Our own voices need a moment of cessation, sometimes. To be silent. Our minds and hearts can only take in so much. This isn’t a call to give up. This isn’t a call to forget. This isn’t a call to “get over it.” No, this is a reminder that within the angst, we are still people of Christ who get to rise up and speak up for the hurting and the marginalized. We also get to rest, just like Christ rested within the timing of God.

We, the people of faith, are to be at the forefront of the justice sorrows of our time, to pay attention and dare to live fully awake. By resting we find the strength that we need to rise up and answer this call.

Yes, the earth groans for a deep connection to its Creator, even the rocks cry out. There is lament that needs to take place in the work of resolve. There are actions of growth and liberation that must occur. Through all of that, may we not forget the methodical pace of our Creator who says, “Be still and know.”

To rest in God is to be still and know. To know of the hope beyond our own understanding.