“Do you want more of God? Then shut up and listen.”
“Be still, and know that I am God!”
I know someone who cannot be still. If they are not physically moving then they are seated in front of a computer or mentally engaged with some hand-held electronic device. They are always in motion – physically or mentally. They don’t sleep very well. I’m not surprised. Their mind simply doesn’t know how to shut down and be still. The consequence is that they are always exhausted. Perhaps you know this person. Perhaps this person is you.
One of the first lessons God teaches us is that we were created in a manner that requires us to be still on a regular basis. In fact, God demonstrates this lesson to us in the opening pages of the Bible; God creates the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. And on the seventh day God rests. To watch some people it would seem that they have more energy than God. They simply have missed God’s intention that we stop occasionally. I wonder if Isaac Newton was making a personal observation when he famously declared that a body in motion tends to remain in motion.
The person I speak of – and I am thinking of a specific individual – is not only physically exhausted, they often live their life in a spiritual wasteland. They want more of God, they desperately long for more of God but God seems far away. I know because they often ask me how they can have more of God. I haven’t shared with him Leonard Sweet’s elixir, “Then shut up and listen.” That’s another thing with my friend, they don’t listen very well. How could they? Their mind is always racing with one thought or another.
My friend needs to take baby steps. First, simply stop from time to time and watch people. Notice their behavior, their activity and how they engage with others. Make mental notes, “What do I see?” Naturally, this is still mental activity but activity that notices a world apart from oneself. Once that has been practiced for a period then what is required is actively listening to others. As those in the helping profession would say, active listening is putting aside any thought to a response – it is simply hearing another fully. Active listening frees us from a sense of isolation – another difficulty my friend struggles with.
Once there is some familiarity with active listening – it is mastered only by the most disciplined – the most difficult step is to read scripture and sit in silence listening for God. Again, quoting Leonard Sweet, if you want more of God then shut up and listen. This isn’t easy. It has often been the most difficult part of my own spiritual journey.
Psalm 46:10 provides guidance. Placed in the context of the whole Psalm, what we are asked to do is “lean forward” with attentive, expectant hearts for God’s speech to us. This is not an invitation to a passive posture, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. We are invited to a specific activity – leaning forward to hear a word from God. We wait for something to be revealed to us previously hidden.
I believe that my friend is sincere in his desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. What is required is that the pathway of discipleship be located in a place of stillness before God. If he can find this beginning place – stillness before God, time alone with God – he may discover that his exhaustion, difficulty with restful sleep and loneliness will all be diminished. More, the Psalm promises, what he will know with certainty is God.