Finding Refuge in Stillness
Making Peace Within
Rev. Valerie Austin
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; the Creator utters God’s voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. … “Be still and know that I am God!” (NRSV)
Reflection: In order to be effective peacemakers, we sometimes need to reconcile with our own inner turmoil before we can deal with broken relationships, harmed communities and a world that experiences the fires of climate change as well as violent conflict.
There are times when we will unwillingly have to sit with ourselves. For some of us, this can be as mundane as waiting for an appointment to begin, or waiting in line. Some of us have experienced this acutely during the pandemic season of social distancing. Whoever we are, and wherever we may be in life, there will be times in which doing absolutely nothing will be our best solution. To be still and not reach for the next activity, move on to the next chore, or write the next email, can be a great challenge for many. To be still, and be at peace with ourselves, is a gift that the Divine longs to give, if only we would learn to receive it. Sabbath time is preparation for the work Christ calls us to do.
Sometimes when circumstances are less than ideal, or when life has not yet met our expectations, we may begin to listen more intensely to voices that demand constant productivity in an attempt to gain a sense of control. This striving can cause tension within us as our spirits wrestle against busyness to find a space of stillness, even as we may remain in constant motion. This wrestling can be quite uncomfortable, and can even cause our physical bodies to become unwell. Instead of allowing moments of rest to be the restorative blessings that they could be, we are tempted to devolve into an internal tug-of-war.
Dear friend, we must allow ourselves to quiet these voices of demand, to be still in the simple satisfaction of who we are, as we are, with all the successes and all the disappointments, and just let them be. We are invited to rest. As we remind ourselves that each person is a marvelous creature, created in the image of the Divine, we can allow all these suppressed feelings to exist and fall under God’s divine gaze. With God’s grace comes far greater confidence for action.
Practice for Peacemakers: Find a place of stillness, preferably alone. Notice your breath, and take the time to reach a state of calm. Breathe slowly and deeply, filling up your belly. As you breathe, note whatever feelings and stresses arise. Perhaps there’s tension or stress that feels tight on your shoulders or chest. Perhaps there is a sense of guilt or regret. You may notice more than one feeling, or not much at all. Imagine divine eyes looking upon each thing that you feel, a presence that is gentle and understanding. God accepts all of these thoughts and feelings as you notice them. Continue slow breathing. Refocus yourself again by listening closely to your breath. On the inhale think “Peace,” and upon your exhale, think “Release.” Continue for however long you may need.
Prayer: Eternal, all-knowing one, you see that our hearts are restless and our spirits refuse stillness. You long for us to savor rest in your presence. Let us find the courage to be still in your grace. Let us dare to find peace within ourselves as a step on the path of peacemaking in your world. Amen.
Ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition, Valerie Austin serves Mountain Rise UCC in Fairport, NY, as associate minister.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking