By Curtis Shelburne: CNJ Religion Columnist
“Sometimes,” a wise physician said, “the best thing you can do for your patient is nothing.” Of course, many times the best medicine IS medicine or surgery or aggressive treatment. But sometimes the best medicine is wrapped up in knowing when to do nothing. Wait a bit. Watch awhile.
But waiting is hard.
We want to do something, take charge, assert ourselves. Maybe we need to. But not always.
Perhaps God’s hardest counsel to hear and obey is this: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Part of this counsel seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
If God is indeed God, then I am not. That’s good, and it really takes a load off. I didn’t think I recalled creating light to pierce the darkness, or separating the oceans from the dry land. Surely if I’d done the work of designing and creating something like a giraffe or hippopotamus, I’d have remembered it. And I don’t recall the Almighty asking my advice when HE did it.
I see more ramifications to this “not being God” thing.
If God is God, and I’m not, then that means I’m really not ultimately in charge, right? Good. I’m in charge of more things now than I want to be. Trying to mind my own business is task enough.
If God is God, and I’m not, and if God did indeed create me in his own image, then that means I don’t have any business trying to create him in mine. That’s good news, too. I’ve seen the kind of “God” some folks think they serve—and, yes, I admit it, the kind of “God” I’ve let be created in my own mind at times, and those “Gods” don’t look much like Jesus. That means they’re false gods.
It’s a challenge sometimes to “know” that God is God, and we are not. Understanding the part of Psalm 46:10 is tough.
But the first part seems to be every bit as tough: “Be still.” Maybe if we were tried the first part on occasion, we’d be better at the second part.
Edward Hays gives some great advice along that line, particularly at Christmastime: “Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.
“An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’
“The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to all.”
Let’s take some time to “be still” lest we miss the Gift.