Stillness does not come easily to most of us. It is hard enough to be still on the outside, but just try to sit still for even five minutes and you’ll likely find that your mind’s activity is making you as tired as if you were actually moving physically.
Our culture devalues stillness, equating it with a lack of productivity. We’ve lost touch with the concept of fallowness, the practice of allowing a field to rest, so that it can be renewed. When a field lies fallow, it is then better able to provide the goodness seeds need for growth. In this season of winter, we see the bare limbs of a tree and know that even though it appears that nothing is happening, the tree is being made ready for spring’s new growth. Nature can teach us about stillness.
I struggle to be still. I know the value of stillness, but the mindset that activity equates to productivity is so culturally ingrained that it takes great discipline to overcome it and invite stillness. Last Sunday afternoon I chose to sit outside in the yard rather than take a walk. Walking feels more productive to me than sitting, but my spirit was renewed as I felt the gentle breeze on my skin, listened to the birds sing and watched the lengthening shadows fall across the yard.
Waiting and watching—Advent words that we are often too harried to embody—speak to me of fallowness, a stillness pregnant with meaning. In this stillness I let go of the false notion that what God wants most is my activity and realize that it is my heart that God longs for, a heart softened by stillness, a heart prepared to be the birthplace of Christ.