Be Still … Words For Life’s Tough Moments (2017) — It falls upon the shoulders of all mankind, a season of burdensome weight. A life storm. A terminal diagnosis. A broken heart. The reeling injury of an unkind word wretchedly cast upon us by an uncaring soul. The cruelty of an accusational head game player. Life isn’t always fair.
In my teen years, when faced with all the usual emotional and social disarray that filters into the life of a teen, I had a quiet place I would often retreat to, and there I would sit at the base of a big old maple tree high upon a bluff. It was there I would cast aside the cares of the day, the worries of the moment, and take time to simply be still. On the wind, I could smell the aroma coming from a distant kitchen, I could hear the distant whinny of one of the horses in my care, and over my shoulder I could see the she-wolf who often escorted me at a distance on my walks or snow-shoeing treks through the bush. There was a rare magic in the stillness – a place of clarity and serenity.
Be Still and Listen
As a young father, I spent many days and nights sitting beside my son’s oxygen tent watching him breathe. As he out grew the oxygen tent, his life became an ongoing reliance on a face mask and nebulizer. While some fathers watched their sons play sports, I spent nights listening to a baby monitor making sure I could hear my son continue to draw in and out those ever so critical breaths. In the quiet moments, when I held him in my arms, there was a need to be strong, but at times I would quietly steal away to the barn only to pick up a pitch fork and weep openly as I cleaned stalls. My tears were not tears of inconvenience, or resentment, but tears of love for one who was so helpless in the face of his circumstance. In the midst of his struggle, my son looked to me as his source of protective strength, and there were many moments where my fear would be in failing him.
In the years that followed as my son struggled with weight issues due to the side effects of the steroids he had to breathe as a child, and as he struggled with his ADHD which caused him to be a slow learner, I often watched as those around us quickly stepped up to criticize him for being lazy and uninspired. Then the accusational tones and innuendos would flow over onto myself for having been a failure as a father by “not raising my son right”. In the face of such cruelty, wisdom is found in two words…be still.
Years later, when I suffered a spinal injury, it was my son who became my rock, helping this once proud father with even the simplest of task of putting on my socks and shoes.
Life isn’t always fair, and as people often out of cruelty cast their judgements at my son and I, I had to quietly remind myself that it was I, who as a father over the years sat beside my son’s bed, or cradled him in my arms loving him through every difficult breath of air. It was I who walked with him to the doctor’s appointments to receive the coaching he needed for his ADHD, when the only thing educators could offer my son was criticism and complaints. Life isn’t always fair, and yet the truly ignorant boast too loudly of what they think they know. It was my son who when times got tough, without being asked, stepped up to help be for myself, a critical shoulder to lean on.
In the face of life’s difficulties, how do we respond? The answer is found in two often drowned out words…BE STILL!
Be Still … Words For Life’s Tough Moments
How do we respond when people unleash their arrogance, casting their disgust over what may be our lack of personal wealth, or taste in wardrobe? We respond by taking time to be still. While we might wish to lash back with a blistering verbal assault, in stillness we are called to something better.
In life, there will always be those who will stand, and wait, the power of their inner growth and maturity stifled by the virulent nature of their spewing words and spirit of condemnation. In the face of these, be still. For in stillness, we are called to something better.
When life deals us the hard blow of a medical crisis, when we have fought the good fight in life trying ever so hard to be responsible and true to our unique self, how do we respond? Be still. In stillness we can accept that life isn’t always fair, and nothing is constant for everything changes.
When faced with our mortality, we can choose to fight reality, often losing focus misplacing it upon the unimportant, such as the accumulation of things. In living life, there will always be the lord of death. When we misplace our life focus onto the accumulation of things, we become very much like a master carpenter trying to block out the lord of death through the mastery of the carpenter’s own creation. It was a wise man who once said, “He who cuts with the blade of a master carpenter, is sure to cut his own hands.” When we learn to be still, we can recognize and embrace reality.
When the one we love walks away, leaving us alone, filled with the painful void of rejection, how do we respond? Be still, for wretched and gloomy is the path of unrequited love. When faced with such painful rejection, it’s easy to get lost in the question, “What will I do now?” When love is not returned, it does not mean love does not exist. Only by taking time to be still do we begin to realize the best love is the love that is given out from us, and not drawn into us from another. Too often we mistakenly focus on the need for someone else to “do” for us by extending love to us, instead of realizing the importance of practicing a love which is only found when we extend our love outwardly. When our love towards our self and others is both pure and selfless, then we love without expectation of reciprocity. Only in a selfless love do we find the freedom to lovingly release the one who has rejected us, allowing everything to settle into its own perfect place.
When the one we love takes, takes, and only takes, how do we respond so as to avoid a life filled with resentment and regret? We respond by learning to be still. A virtuous person always seeks a way to give freely of him or herself without expectation of receiving back. A person who lacks virtue always seeks out ways to get, or take advantage of another. To the giver comes a true fullness and abundance of life; to the taker, just an empty hand and heart.
How then do we respond to life’s tough moments, or seasons of collective harsh moments? We respond by taking time to be still, for only in the stillness can we hear the whisper of our own inner calling. Only in the stillness can we shut out the distractions and noise that would pull us in less important directions. Only in the stillness can we see the errors of our ways, before they manifest themselves onto the vast landscape of regret. Only in stillness can we see truth when faced with false accusation.
A wise person does not act prematurely, and by refusing to act prematurely, they rely on stillness never knowing defeat. A wise person does not lay hold of what’s unimportant, and therefore does not lose. A wise person does not treasure those things which are difficult to attain, he does not horde or draw around him precious things never to be shared, and he does not harbour in secret man’s great ideas. A wise man, steeped in stillness, releases the things of this world to find their own purpose, not leading them on a path of his or her design, as if pulled upon by a rope fastened to a nose ring.
How then do we stand in the face of life’s uncertainties? It starts, by taking time to be still.
Writer: James C. Tanner