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For this Christmas Shabbat Shalom post, I’d like to talk a bit about “present”, but not the present that’s probably sitting under your tree.
We all know being human is complicated. There’s so much to navigate in living a holistic life. Bad things (and good things too) happen to all of us. Not one of us is exempt or immune. What makes all the difference isn’t what happens in our lives—‘cause face it, life happens with or without us—rather, it’s how we perceive and deal with what happens.
Often times the advice we get to address the “bad things” is to make peace with our past. And yes that is critically important to living holistically. However, it is equally essential to make peace with our present. We don’t hear that too often, do we?
Personally, when my present is working well, I find that the past is so much easier to confront and even to put behind me.
This however is not at all to say we won’t have setbacks, right?
Look, we’re humans. We all get triggered by powerful old feelings. What we can do in response is to reach for tools that can help us to successfully manage and deal with negative emotions. And most importantly, to not fall back to old scripts. I know, easier said than done.
The holidays are especially big triggers. So, I’d like to share a three-part tool recommended by David, the Psalmist, and I know it’s been successfully tested and tried by many many followers of Christ and of the Bible.
Before David recommended this tool, however, he first referenced the consequences of past behaviors like feelings of shame and guilt. And he did so only as an acknowledgment because with the next breath his admonition was to take action:
…commune with your own heart on your bed and be still”.Psalm 4:4
What was David saying here?
The first part of the tool: acknowledge (not ruminate) negative emotions.
It’s human. It’s all part of the journey. We make mistakes or we are the byproducts of other’s mistakes. We feel guilty, ashamed etc. Acknowledging is the first step to making peace with our present.
The second part of the tool: self-forgiveness.
To commune with your own heart is the process of separating who you are from the mistakes you’ve made. It’s an introspective examination done in a safe space. I think David deliberately said “on your bed” because
“True confession consists of telling our deed in such a way that our soul is changed in the telling of it.”—Maude Petre (English Nun)
And where is the best place to have this level of confession than in an intimate space where you feel safe (like bed). Bed could be your literal bed, or the place from where you commune with God, or the sofa of a therapist if you choose that route. Wherever you choose it should be a space where you can feel safe to go through the process of forgiving yourself.
The third part of the tool: be still.
I think David’s “be still” call is to be present. To know that at every moment we are each doing the best we can based on the beliefs and knowledge we have at that moment. And, to enjoy the present.
And, also to be in a state of decisive intention to connect to the Power that is greater than us. To make a conscious decision to remove or modify external forces in full surrender to the Omnipresence of God in order to be ‘at-one-ment’ with Him.
External forces—even family, friends and jobs and emotions such as fear, doubt, anger or worry—these all impede our ability to be still. So you may want to take time away, for in the noise of it all we cannot hear the voice of God. Some people actually choose intentional and dedicated fasting and praying time for just this purpose.
Making peace with the present means being present.
And being present means we cannot only create new understandings of our world but we can also be write new scripts to tell our life experiences in ways that don’t keep us stuck in “the story”.
Being present also means that we are better able to hear God. For when we listen right enough we hear God speak.
Listening right enough is necessary because God is not a firestorm-, hurricane- or earthquake-speaking God. No. He’s the God of stillness. He’s the God of voice. And His voice is precisely like ours so we can actually recognize when He speaks, just like Elijah did.
That Elijah-be-still-and-hear-God encounter is too well aligned to the purpose of this post for me not to include it in closing.
Here is God speaking directly to Elijah:
… Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entering in of the cave. And behold, there came a voice unto him and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?1 Kings 19:11-13
Now, is it possible that God is seeking to have a be-still moment with you and also asking you: “what doest thou here?”
Shabbat Shalom! May you find peace in not living in “the story”—the way things should have been—but rather seeking to reconcile those experiences so you may live in the truth of who you are and to be at peace with your present. And may your response to God’s still-small-voice callout, “what doest thou here?”, be: “I’m waiting for you, God, for restoration in the present of now”.
You may also like Be Still, the poem.
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