The Call to Stillness
Choosing Stillness, Part 1


Each new season brings fresh beginnings and enthusiasm along with the challenge of full schedules. For me it was not long after returning from a delightfully restful vacation that I felt the familiar tug. The subtle inner pressure of tasks to be accomplished and promises to keep.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my inner restlessness until I picked up the book Seeing What is Sacred and allowed one of my favourite authors, Ken Gire, to lend me some words.

You’re familiar with the story, found in Luke 10:38-42, of the two sisters at Bethany. Mary, the contemplative, loved to be near Jesus, attentive to his words. Martha, the responsible hostess, tended to the needs of her guests in her kitchen. But she got all worked up in the kitchen as she laboured alone, and she evenutally burst onto the scene with her voice full of accusations and demands.

Ken Gire's insights on Jesus' response to Martha met me right where I was at that morning.

Jesus' call to stillness / the one important thing

Jesus: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.”

Gire: Notice how easily the ‘many things’ in Martha’s life caused her not only to be distracted but irritated, how even something as mundane as meal preparation worried her and bothered her, affecting not only her relationship with her sister but with Christ.

Me: Martha was all wound up with the task to be done in service of her Master. How easily I get all wound up also. Stressed, I’m unable to sit still, but bow to the pressure to get going instead. Sitting still, my head still whirs and interrupts my prayer with perpetual list-making. Anxious, my prayers become self-focused and far from the Christ-focus I’d like them to have. My wound-up-ness itself keeps me busy while actually hindering my productivity.

Jesus: “Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Gire: In contrast to life’s many responsibilities, Jesus says that only a few things are really necessary. And when you get right down to it, only one. The one thing necessary, the one thing of eternal value, the one thing that shall not be taken away, is the time we spend seated at Christ’s feet, looking in His eyes with adoration and listening to His word in submission.

As I pondered the story I saw afresh how simple it is really. Responding to the call to stillness is the most important thing I can do as a follower of Jesus. It's my heart's desire because it is so valuabe, so necessary, and so rich in its rewards.

Then I bridled my wound-up-ness and brought it to my Saviour’s feet. I responded to the Master's call to stillness and was deeply rewarded by an intimate conversation together.

But choosing stillness often presents a challenge, which Anne Morrow Lindbergh diagnoses this way:

“The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as that is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.”

How do we go about stilling the soul? It helps me to know that many have gone before us to point the way. This series of articles is devoted to answering the challenge.


Part 2
Fully Present
to Jesus
Part 3
Practicing the Presence of God
Return to
Faith formation page

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