When I was in my early teen years, I used to have a nasty habit of virulently swinging my leg while crossed at the knee. I was also a knee bouncer. I’d lift the heel of my foot off the floor so it was resting on the ball. Consider use of the term “resting” lightly there because it was anything but still. My knee would bounce and bounce at such a fast rhythm, you might think I’d soon work up enough gusto to take flight. If someone were to have told me to learn to be still, I would have scrunched my brow, squinted my eyes and wondered, “Why?”
At some point, my mother connected me with a friend of hers who ran a temporary job placement agency in our community. I had several scheduled meetings with her. The purpose was for her to teach me how to interview well with prospective employers. It was dear Mrs. Kichty who told me I needed to break my bad habits of leg swinging and knee bouncing. She said that, if I hoped to become employed, I had to learn to be still during job interviews.
I was a good student who learned to be still
Not only did I learn to be still, I learned to love being still. Nowadays, I fondly recall Mrs. Kichty when I hear myself instructing my daughters to stop bouncing their knees under the table. “Learn to be still,” I say. In Psalm 46:10, God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Have you noticed how much modern man hates being still?
I love to people-watch. If I do it often enough, I start to notice trends, such as that, generally speaking, people do not like to be still. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I have observed some folks who look like they’ll go ballistic at any moment if they have to be still one more second.
We’ve become addicted to instant gratification
With advanced technology at our disposal, we, as a society, have grown accustomed to getting what we want when we want it. I think that might have something to do with why people do not like to be still. If a person has a present-moment goal and he or she has to wait to accomplish it, it causes anger.
I recently saw a man in the grocery store. Multiple check out lines were full but the clerks were moving people through at a quick pace. This man came up to the first line, stood on his toes to look at the carts in front him. I suppose he was estimating how long it might take to get through the line. He left the line with a look of frustration on his face. I watched him repeat this little routine at every line in the store, getting angrier and more frustrated as he went. It seemed impossible for him to be still. By the time he got to the last line, I couldn’t help but think he likely would have already been checked out if he had just stayed put in the first line.
People get really angry at long red lights
We have a particular intersection in our local community where the red lights stay red for what seems like eternity. My one daughter despises this intersection and prefers that I drive down to the next block to avoid it. I often tell her that the lengthy red light gives us an opportunity to learn to be still.
I observe the looks on other drivers’ faces when I get stuck at the red light. People start scrunching toward their steering wheels, as though doing so will make the light change faster. They tilt their heads from one shoulder to the other and frown. Some of them take verrrrry deeeeeep breaths. It’s almost like they are having allergic reactions to sitting still.
Some people say they thrive on never being still
I’ve met a few people who try to glorify constant motion. They claim to thrive on it. Such people say they do not want to learn to be still because being still loses them money. I’ve heard more than one entrepreneur say he or she must keep moving and keep hustling. These same people often complain about how stressed they feel. Many of them lament never having quality time with their kids or spouses. Some of them whine about wanting time to themselves.
I’m always left wondering why they don’t just stop for a moment and learn to be still. Those who believe their jobs or presence somewhere is so important that they can’t be still for 20 minutes, are fooling themselves. No one is that important.
Why you should learn to be still
If you learn to be still for a few moments each day, you’re bound to improve your mental, emotional and spiritual health. Whether you listen to music or sit in silence, you can give your mind a much needed break. Your senses may be more alert when you’re still. You’ll hear things you don’t typically notice, as well as see or smell things that you miss when you’re on the go.
The enemy likes us to stay in constant motion. He knows that, if we learn to be still, we’re more likely to feel God’s presence in our lives. If we maintain perpetual motion, our thoughts eventually become cluttered. It’s difficult to make careful decisions when our minds are on overload. You-know-who loves that. If we learn to be still, we often begin using our stillness as a time to commune with God. The one who wants to separate you from God really hates that. When is the last time you were still? Did you have to think with effort to answer that? I encourage you to strive to experience stillness in your life — a few moments, every day. You might be surprised when you begin to look forward to it.