Be Still...In the Eyes of God, Stillness Does Not Equate to Laziness
In a community that thrives on intellect, innovation, and discovery, sitting alone in a coffee shop simply to drink coffee might be seen as an abomination. Yale students clutter the tables, as with most coffee shops in downtown New Haven. They chatter, they type furiously, and they frown at math equations. I sit ideally, leisurely paging through the Economist, not really reading, but thinking: What does God want from me?
Immediately, my mind jumps to Matthew 22, where Jesus states: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Though this passage is important, this is not the answer I’m searching for.
To refine my question, I realize that I am really asking: what does God want from me this year, on this day, in this moment? God wants me to be still.
I am notorious for overbooking myself. In high school, I took pride in the number of activities I was part of and in college I wasn’t much better. My mom always tells me I need to practice the art of relaxation and I found this idea laughable. But as I entered this year with no classes and freedom to explore new ideas, I realized God calls me to be still in His presence despite the busyness of life. This is not easy for me because I am a planner. I want to make sure my future works out the way I want it to work out. But this conflicts with how God has been asking me to live this year.
Last week during our spiritual direction with Judy Stone we analyzed the Good Samaritan parable in the gospel of Luke, and after the conclusion of the passage, I came across a biblical story I had never considered extensively. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visits Martha and Mary. As the story goes, the two sisters respond to Jesus’ presence in their home quite differently. Mary “sat at the Lords feet and listened to what he was saying” while “Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked ‘Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” Jesus responded “’Martha, Martha you are worried and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’”
From this passage, I have concluded that Jesus is calling all of us to be still in His presence. I fail to live out this calling daily. With 23 browser tabs open on my computer all concerning various graduate programs for next year, I am unable to focus on the here and now. I am distracted. I am tired. I am scatter-brained. But despite how much I want to plan out every detail of my future, I know God is telling me to slow down and focus on something more important.
In November, St. Hilda’s House had the opportunity to stay at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and participate in a silent retreat, which provided me with a platform to be still and present with God. One of the Brothers lead a session with us and challenged us to focus on each moment we are in, to do things slowly, and to spend the weekend not multitasking. To be honest, this idea frightened me. The following week, I was taking the GRE, which is an exam for graduate school. As I studied in my room at the retreat center, I felt God’s pull to rest. Every time I tried to study, I felt exhausted. I ended up spending the majority of the weekend trying to study, but failing. Therefore, I failed to accomplish the task of studying, but also failed to accomplish the task of being fully present with God.
This year, I have realized that success may mean getting into a certain number of grad schools, but success does not necessarily lead to a fruitful life. Being present and still under God’s wing is truly where one can find peace. My roommates force me to be present daily unbeknownst to them. Countless times, I finish my dinner and they remain around the dining room table, engaging in debate, laughter, and story-filled conversation. I find myself checking the time on my phone and feeling unsettled during these moments. However, these conversations are crucial to a fruitful life and understanding God more fully.
Though it is difficult for me to admit, one’s worth is not found in the character of their resume, but found in the character of their inner workings. Taking the time to be still and listen to God’s will in a competitive and fast-paced world is a challenge for me. But God has called me to stillness. God has called me to slow down. God has called me to listen to my neighbor and smile at strangers on the street even when I feel I am in a rush. If I focus on success in life, I will never truly feel fulfilled. Only in God’s presence can I find my peace.
 Matthew 22:37-39, New Revised Standard Version
 Luke 10:38-42, New Revised Standard Version