Selah: Day 1
Slowness and Stillness
Have you ever stood before a map, perhaps at a trailhead or in a subway station, and found the red dot • that indicates “You are here”? Knowing where we are currently located helps us know what direction we want to head. The same is true as we approach the Lord. Recognizing where we are in our hearts and the circumstances of our lives allows us to move into our time with Him with greater honesty. It gives us a chance to invite the Lord into the places that matter to us TODAY.
• What has been most pressing on your heart in the last few weeks? What do you find yourself feeling and thinking about as you enter this time?
Turn your gaze onto the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are eagerly inviting you today to be with Them. Let this knowledge still and quiet your heart.
Uncrowd my heart, O God,
Until silence speaks
In Your still, small voice;
Turn me from the hearing of words,
And the making of words, and the confusion of much speaking,
–Thomas Merton 1
Perhaps you would prefer to also pray through song: Be Still and Know 2 by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Reflect and Ponder
Today we are considering what it means to be slow and still. What stirs in your heart when you think about slowing down, turning off the noise in your life, and being quiet? Does this feel inviting, or does it give you a sense of unease, or even dread?
In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer says, “. . . love, joy, and peace are at the heart of all Jesus is trying to grow in the soil of your life. And all three are incompatible with hurry.” 3
I wonder if you have found this to be true in your life?
Consider whether you find that you live in love more readily when you are moving at a slower, more deliberate pace—does this resonate with you? Why or why not?
“We enter the text to meet God as he reveals himself, not to look for truth or history or morals that we can use for ourselves.”
–Eugene Peterson 4
Spirit of God, reveal Yourself to us as we read your Word.
Take time to reflect on Psalm 131. Choose a new way to let this Psalm “read you,” by listening to it 5 being read, listening to it in musical form 6, or by reading these two different versions of it. Whichever you choose, listen slowly and pay attention to the words, phrases, or feelings that stand out to you and write them down.
Psalm 131 (NIV)
1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 131 (The Message)
1 God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
2 I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content.
3 Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always!
Meditation on Psalm 131
Take a moment to consider what others have to say about this Psalm.
“In Psalm 131, David presents a beautiful image of a soul at rest. A weaned child resting upon its mother is a lovely thing. It is a mother’s greatest happiness to hold in her arms a resting, contented child. I wonder if God feels this way, too.
What we have to face, though, is that getting to the point of a contentedly weaned child on its mother’s lap is not an easy achievement for the mother or the child. When a baby wants milk, it cries, screams, grabs, demands. But as a child grows, it must learn that it does not always get what it wants when it wants it. It is only after going through a painful deprivation process that a child is weaned and becomes content to sit upon its mother’s lap for (the purpose of) love more than for milk.” –Laura Hash 7
“Weaning is a child’s first experience of loss. It is a difficult but important lesson that you can’t always get what you want in life and that you can’t always have your own way. Unfortunately, some of us are still trying to learn that lesson. You’d think we would have learned it back when we were weaned! But weaning is a process. It’s a battle to wean a child, and it’s a battle for God to bring us to this place of quiet contentment and rest.” –Ray Fowler 8
Be curious as you look inward. Take a few minutes to reflect on your own experience as a weaned child in God’s arms. Some questions you may consider: Are there times you approach God because you want something from Him? Do you think this is right or wrong, or is there another way to think about it? Is it easy for you to sit contentedly in His presence without demanding more? When you are able to simply be with Him, how have you arrived at that place?
You are invited to further curiosity by choosing one of the two options below—or do both if you feel inspired!
Participate in this silent video 9 (Breathe: Being with God in Silence, Emotionally Healthy Discipleship). There is no sound, only written text along with a gentle, meditative exercise for you to try.
Choose one of the two pieces of artwork to reflect on. Set a timer for five minutes and spend that time letting the art soak into your heart.
Contemplate this artwork in the context of Psalm 131 (NLT):
I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
What do you notice about the picture? What feeling does it evoke in you? Try using this artwork to draw you further into the words of David in Psalm 131.
As this time of reflection winds down, here are a couple of ways you may choose to respond to the Lord’s movement in your heart.
Try making this song by Kari Jobe a prayer to Jesus—Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)12.
You may also simply sit for 5 minutes in the Lord’s presence, no words. Enjoy sitting with Him as a weaned child rests with contentment in his parent’s arms. If your mind wanders, bring it back to His presence and remember that it’s simply an opportunity to return again to Jesus. Let your soul be stilled by the knowledge that you are loved.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)
In Jesus’ name, believe the gospel!
Take It Further
Would you like to incorporate some other ways to help you practice slowness and presence?
- Take a walk deliberately and slowly. Pay attention to what you see. Leave your phone and headphones behind. Recognize that Jesus is with you as you walk, so resist the urge to have to speak words to Him. Just be with Him and remember He’s happy to just be with you too.
- As you eat a meal today, make it a point to chew slowly and wait 10 seconds in between bites. Pay attention to what your food tastes and feels like. What is it like not to rush through a meal?
- Gather the family and rather than watching TV or a movie, listen to music together. Family members can take turns choosing songs. Using our sense of sound rather than sight helps us slow down and experience things in a fresh way.
- Watch the documentary film Godspeed.13 Godspeed tells the story of one man’s journey of slowing down and learning to live and minister at “God’s speed.” This 36-minute film is a visual feast (it’s set in Scotland) and is also gently thought-provoking (www.livegodspeed.org).
- Meditate on any of the following quotes:
“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should, therefore, be the subject of our most personal attention. Therefore, let us look somewhat closer, first at our life in action, and at our life in solitude.” –Henri Nouwen 14
“God walks ‘slowly’ because He is love. If He is not love He would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow,’ yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love.” –Kosuke Koyama 15
“What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself? What if the good of all our smaller and lower needs lies in this, that they help to drive us to God? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need.” –George McDonald 16
- Take a nap, guilt-free! Resting and napping is an active way to practice Sabbath and slowness.
1 Thomas Merton, quoted in Lost in Wonder, Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal
2 Steven Curtis Chapman, Be Still and Know, ℗ 1999 Sparrow Records
3 From The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, page 25
4 From Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson, page 66
5 From NIV Audio Bible, Psalm 131, May 2, 2020
6 From Sons of Koran, Psalm 131, September 2020
7 From Day with God, article by Laura Hash
8 From a sermon titled, Humbled and Content, by Ray Fowler
9 Video Breathe: Being with God in Silence, by Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, November 2018
10 Cassatt, Mary, English: Mother and Child, 1890, Wichita Art Museum, Kansas, Public Domain US, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4667747
11 Duarte, Natalia Eremeyeva, Father and Son, 2012. Printed with permission.
12 Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest), by Kari Jobe, 2013 Sparrow Records
13 Godspeed, The Ranch Studios, 2016. www.livegodspeed.org
14 From Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen
15 From Three Mile an Hour God, Kosuke Koyama
16 From Unspoken Sermons: The Word of Jesus on Prayer, George McDonald