“Live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now.”
I’ve been pondering “the now” a lot of late. I suppose that’s what happens to many people after multiple weeks of unemployment, as funds begin to dwindle and you can no longer fill your time with activities that cost money. Pondering is free, if not always enjoyable.
There’s a line from the movie Garden State that I’ve always loved: “Have fun exploring the infinite abyss.” From a distance that does sound incredibly appealing, but the thing about infinite abysses is that once you begin exploring them it’s easy to get lost.
Pondering is an infinite abyss. There are some neat treasures to be found, if you can handle the muck you are going to dig up as well.
I found this verse the other morning: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14 ESV).
You only have to be silent. Only implies simplicity. And while there is a certain simplicity in a single goal, it is far from easy to funnel all of your energy into one place. I would much rather have God hand me a lengthy to-do list every morning. To have a plethora of interesting, challenging, even boring tasks to fill my mind and body.
I just want to do something. Anything, but sit patiently. I found this phrase in a book I’ve been reading: “I was the sea, longing for the shore. I made waves” (Thomas Schmidt, A Scandalous Beauty).
I want to make waves.
But that’s not what God asks. He gives one directive: be silent. In other places He says to be still and know He is God. Or there’s the time He tells Martha that Mary’s “one thing” of sitting at His feet is all that is necessary. All that is desired.
And yet, after years of telling God that I’d do anything He asked of me, I am still learning that anything includes nothing. I want a mission. An objective. Something life-alteringly brilliant and thrilling and challenging. I just never expected (or desired) a mission that consisted of silence and waiting.
How do I remain in a constant state of meaningful nothing? Instead of knowing God in my silence, all I can do is hear my repeating inner monologue echoing loudly down the hallways of my mind: “Be quiet!” “Shhhh!” “Sit still!” “Focus!” “Hey you, Mind—shut it!”
It’s enough to make anyone crazy.
I know the last thing you should do when trying to abstain from something is to focus on the forbidden. But when I fast, I can’t stop thinking about food. And when all I want to do is to hear and obey God, my mind refuses to stop coming up with different ways that I could “help God” answer my prayers. Ways I could manipulate situations to get the results that I long for.
And still He says “be silent.” That’s all I have to do. And for an hour or two—three tops—I succeed. But then I get restless and in frustration find myself mentally rumpled, like waking after a night of tossing and turning—more tired than when my head hit the pillow.
It would be nice to end this essay of sorts with a Christian cliché to cleanse the palate after a potent meal of mind-boggling conundrums. But I can’t. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of reality to sour shallow, if well-meaning, phrases.
I will say that God is in control. That He has a plan. That His ways are infinitely beyond mine and I will never plumb His depths. But beyond that I will remain silent. (That’s what He’s been trying to get me to do anyway, isn’t it?).