Somedays I wake up in a fog, unable to focus. The world and its problems seem to be yelling at me, You must pick a side! Friends want to know who I’m voting for or why I haven’t chimed in on the latest shooting or protest. I don’t want to add to the clamor. They tell me my silence is deafening. But it’s the silence I most want, most need. Like Elijah on the mountain, I need to hear God’s voice in the midst of the chaos. I need to be reminded of what is true and holy. Spiritual writer, Kathleen Norris says, “Jesus is ready to calm the storm if only we make ourselves still enough to hear Him.”
In an effort to be more attentive, more still, I start off my mornings at the chapel on the Catholic university campus not far from my house. The holy water in the font is warm as I make the sign of the cross. It’s as if God knew I was coming and wanted me to feel welcome, comfortable. I sit down in the pew in the simple, clean space. The chapel is devoid of clutter, of anything to distract me. Sometimes I am all alone, like God is waiting for me, which of course, He is. When there are other people praying, I find comfort in their presence.
I turn off the ringer on my phone and soak in the silence. There are no piles of laundry. No desk full of papers. There is no wi-fi. No commercials. No Facebook. No one tries to talk to me.
But it’s difficult to sit still. It’s not just my body that wants to move, to twitch and shift; it’s my mind too. I think of to-do lists and my schedule until finally I give in to the utter gift of a quiet space. I ask God to remind me of what is true and good.
What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
I find comfort in these words. God isn’t surprised by what is going on in the world. He’s seen it before and it doesn’t rattle Him. But my anxiety rears its head. I need more relief.
In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
The words feel like a hug to sooth my tension. I do love Him. In my small love, I want to love Him more. In the chapel, I am consoled. I don’t need to fix things. God is in charge, not me.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
All too soon it’s time to leave. I want to take this silence with me, this cup of calmness for the rest of the day. As I stand to go, I realize, it is with me. The anxiety has left and I feel a sense of peace that was not there when I arrived.
Christian poet Wendell Berry says,
And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven,
but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here.
It’s true. God’s peace is here in this chapel, but His Spirit is within me. I can take my own quiet calm out into the noisy world.