There are times in life when we feel tossed helplessly about by overwhelming circumstances, when we long for the Prince of Peace to shout a command and calm our storms. But then there are times when I find myself in a storm of my own making, like a child making waves in a bathtub or stirring a current in a swimming pool. The waves I’ve created are splashing water up my nose; my own current is now sweeping me away. And there is a moment of panic, of helpless struggle, as I realize I can no longer resist the power of that rushing water.
I want the “storm” to cease, and yet I’m helplessly running along with that rushing current—round and round in circles. Because if I try to stop, the water will sweep over my head and push me under. So I keep circling with the current, even though I know that with each step I take the current gains momentum.
But the moment of truth must come. The moment of decision. “Be still!” says the Prince of Peace: He commands me and not the waves. Will I obey and take the risk of drowning, or will I continue to be swept away? I stop. The water rushes over, swells around me, and for a moment I can’t breathe. My footing gives way and for a few steps I’m dragged along. Then I remember the Rock. Yes, the Rock that is higher and stronger than I, and I cling to it until the momentum of my current ebbs and slows and all is still once more.
A mystery word, appearing throughout the Psalms and Habbakuk. Is it a command to the singers to pause and let the music swell? Is it a pause for the musicians and singers to stop and meditate? How long is the pause? Is it similar to the musical rests that we see in our music today? A mystery, and yet perhaps the point is not the pause itself.
With any pause or rest or change in tempo, there is re-direction, drawing attention away from one thing and to something else. Maybe it’s a tempo we are comfortable with and words that are familiar, then pause—and we wait, attention riveted on the conductor for permission to begin again. It’s just like God to know that our minds would wander even as we utter ageless wonders, truths so familiar to us that we can chant them while we think about projects left undone and dinner yet to be prepared, then Selah—and we suddenly redirect our attention from the mundane back to the Timeless.
Or maybe it’s the swell that has us distracted, the current of our own chaos sweeping us away, then Selah—we redirect our attention, hope, and energy to the Rock instead of the waves. The mountains tremble, the nations rage, and we wring our hands in hopeless despair; then Selah—Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46)
A sudden stand-still, an immediate ceasing that captures our attention and helps us to see what we may have otherwise missed, like slamming on the brakes interrupts conversation and turns everyone’s attention to the road.
God interrupts our finite existence with His infinite presence: “Be still—and know that I am God.”