by Jordan Miller-Stubbendick
Many years ago, I visited a monastery for a few days and was intrigued by the rhythm of the day. It began well before dawn, as the monks awoke for their first of seven set prayer times throughout the day and night. For the monks, each day was well ordered. There were certain times for prayer, for meals, for work, and rest. I find something so appealing about the predictability of this consistent life.
Even more impressive was that when the appointed time for doing an activity was up, the monks stopped doing it. They did not try to squeeze one more thing into their work hours or add one more prayer to their worship time. There was enough time in their schedule for all that needed to be done, and when the clock said they were finished with something, they stopped.
This schedule fascinated me because, most of the time, it is in direct opposition to the way I tend to live my life.
I often think that I can get one more thing done in a given amount of time. And that accomplishing that one more thing will make everything better. My husband and I joke that I think everything should take “just 15 minutes.” I am tempted to believe if I could check everything off my list, or come up with some mythical, monastic-inspired schedule, I could wrangle life into going my way.
But as we know well, life has a way of going differently from how we plan. People get sick, cars break down, or a sudden storm comes up and changes the day’s events. A global pandemic changes almost everything about life as we know it. Despite our best efforts, we can’t always make life go smoothly or turn out the way we wish.
My efforts to keep things going can only do so much. This year has given each of us ample opportunity to remember this truth over and over. We do our best, but there is much we can’t control or change in our world, our life situations, and our feelings — much as we wish we could.
I have found it helpful to stop trying to do so much this year, especially when I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, or sad. It is hard to remember but doing more is not always the answer. Permitting myself to sit with my feelings without trying to fix or change them has been healing. When I don’t try to do just one more thing or push my feelings away, I tend to get more done and move through my feelings quicker.
Psalm 46:10 reminds us: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Sometimes the hardest reaction is to be still. But it can be helpful and healing.
How can we allow ourselves space and grace to be as we are, experience our emotions, and know that God is in the midst of all we are and everything we are feeling?
We can start by sitting in a quiet place and breathing. Listen to your breath going in and out. The ancient Greek word, pnuema, for spirit and breath is the same. When breathing in, you could imagine that the Holy Spirit is filling you with life and love.
Be still, and know that God is God.
Be still and know.
When it is time, you can move on. At any time, you can come back to your breath, to the power and creativity and sustenance of God giving you life. You can be still and know. Your worth does not depend on how much you accomplish or the schedule you keep. Keep coming back to your breath and the stillness as often as needed.
It is enough, and you are enough.
The monks would approve.
The Rev. Jordan Miller-Stubbendick serves as co-country coordinator of the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This article first appeared in the October 2020 issue of boldcafe.org (https://boldcafe.org).