I have a confession to make. I am dependent on God. For years I have devoted myself to speaking to God, but for a long time I felt distant from God’s closeness. Can I share that with you? Oh I pray often, in my life and in my job, but I would never say that it was easy. I did not grow up in a home that celebrated a relationship with God. I came to faith through my experience as a middle and high school student in youth ministry. I gave my heart to Christ, and did my best to get up to speed with a new foreign culture…Christianity. As a former outsider, I became aware of how many customs in the church I was unfamiliar with. I learned new songs, became familiar with a Bible’s concordance, and tried to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This included praying for the first time. Nothing seemed so unnatural to me as sitting down and doing nothing but spend time in silence with God. Most of my time trying to be close to God amounted to wishing for a lot of things to happen. I asked many people about prayer, and was directed how to pray, what to pray for, and to whom. Amidst the formulas and structures, I felt lost. For the longest time, I thought that prayer just wasn’t my spiritual gift. This changed for me about ten years ago.
Every season of Lent, I would give up some item that I cared about so I could acknowledge the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf and make it personally meaningful to me. I would usually give up something like a favorite food, or caffeine (!), and endure living without a certain degree of comfort ( and for close associates, joy, as I was not always very pleasant during my fast). On the day prior to Ash Wednesday as I was reading through Scripture - preparing for a lesson, I came across a familiar Psalm and had a change of heart. In Psalm 46, I read, “Be Still.” I was taken aback. I’m the most unstill person I know, especially during Lent and Easter when I’m spending countless hours preparing for our annual youth mission trip.
Be still. It echoed in my head and heart. Be still. I spent that whole day thinking on those words. Be still.
I awoke the morning of Ash Wednesday with a new plan. I would not give up anything for Lent! Instead, I would take something on. For an hour each day I would be still with God. This plan seemed easy enough at first, but soon I discovered I was not ready to take on this new goal.
I made it about eight minutes the first morning before I was interrupted by a text message. After reading the text, I did not return to my alone time. The second day I fell asleep. The third day, I had found out that my wife and I were expecting a child and I was too hyper with joy (and fear) to be still about anything. I began to feel my goal was impractical and improbable. I decided to try one more time before opting out.
This next morning I tried a new approach. I ate a good breakfast. I entered a room where no one could find me. I left my phone in my car. I sat down with only a Bible and read Psalm 46 verse 10 and tried to be still. I then read it again. I let the words simmer in my head. I read it one more time and let the emotions of David wash over me: “Be still and know that I am God.” I became aware of how uncomfortable it was for me to trust God, and yet here we were spending time together. I felt compelled to give my focus to God and trust in His love; that the things in my life were fully in His hands. I needed to stop trying so hard and simply prioritize time to be with God. I did and it was awesome. That season of Lent changed my connection with God and has continued to bless my life to this day. As a result, I feel like I’m more aware of God’s presence and more attuned to discerning God’s will daily.
I encourage us all to spend time not just studying God’s word, but being in it. Think about trying this out this week. Thank you for letting me share a bit of my story.
Cory offers the attached prayer exercise using Psalm 46.