The joy of a still heart
Life has a sweet symmetry sometimes.
I was just struck by the realization that I am sitting on the back porch, staring off at the sunset. This was indeed my posture for a great many of the posts on this blog. I sat on the little porch behind my place out in the village, watching the sun go down behind the horizon. This evening, I find myself staring off into the retiring sun once again.
Yet, instead of elegant palm trees outlining the horizon, masculine oaks stand up against the sky. Behind them there are no ocean currents or sea breezes. Instead, the shoreline has been replaced with a bypass, a multi-lane superhighway cut right through the woods that used to surround our house. (This all happened while I was away.) Finally, no little black heads bob up and down in rice fields. The only movement is the whir of tractor trailers and motorcycles barreling down the highway.
Nonetheless, I sit in relative silence, watching another day die.
One of my biggest fears of returning to the American bustle was loosing this time of introspection. It is one of my favorite habits developed while living in the bush. What is more, I now understand firsthand the importance of this quiet reflection when it comes to life. In it, I find myself and I find God. It is here that I commune closest with the Father on a personal level. It is in these moments that I find my rest and direction for another day. For many years I have had “quiet times,” but this is different still. Compared to the scheduled chapter-a-day zip through the Bible and brief prayer I would methodically execute morning after morning, this is a different animal. It is a different species of introspection. Yes, I read my Bible, as it is the very essence of communication with our Lord. Yes, I pray, and I pray all the more. But now, I actually take the time to listen.
Oh what joy comes from a still heart listening to its maker!
This evening, I found help in David’s poetic voice. He wrote what has become the 63rd psalm in our psalter while he was in the wilderness of Judah. It was a time in his life when he was steeped in uncertainty, trusting in a promise from God but stuck in practical exile.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. (Psalm 63 , emphasis added)
I get so busy now with all the things American life demands. It is tempting to say I do not have time to slow down, that my time is best used getting things done. Perhaps you find yourself saying the same thing. But despite this line of argument, I have come to a different conclusion.
I am too busy not to take this time.
In some of David’s darkest and most hectic seasons of life, he knew his satisfaction came when he remembered the Lord, when he meditated on him in the watches of the night. I challenge you to find that time today, to spend time not just reading and praying, but listening for your Father’s voice as well.
Joy comes to a still heart.