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  • Writer's pictureRalph Felzer


Photo by Jacob Dyer on Unsplash


First of all, speaking of "waiting," thanks for your patience in waiting for this latest Waybread piece!

You've probably heard people say, "Don't just sit there, do something!"  Well, I'd like to offer an alternative this morning.  How about: "Don't just do something, sit there!"

I had a chance to do this one afternoon last week.  I had a Waybread article to write, but I just couldn't put two thoughts together.  I felt harried and spent and weary.  So I went out onto our back patio to sit and read and do one of the things I enjoy most: just stare out into the woods.  As I sat there, I started seeing and hearing the birds again–nuthatches, cardinals, bluejays, orioles, and of course, robins.  It was one of those Spring days, too, when a fierce wind sends those big puffy white clouds flying across the sky.  The cool thing was the way the clouds' shadows rushed through the woods–there was something almost menacing about the sight.   It was invigorating, and I was reminded of the shy glory of quietness and solitude.

As Americans, we have a bias for action; it's practically in our DNA.  (With that said, my wife Sandy is a Canadian and she has a bias for action that would put a beaver to shame!)  And honestly, though we can and often do indulge it to a fault, a bias for action is a part of what has made America great.  We are a DO-ing people, aren't we?  The very hardest thing for many of us to do is, well … nothing.  We want to fix this and control that and manipulate everything else to our own ends.  And when, for one reason or another, we are unable to work, do, fix, or control, we begin to question who we are.

And that, my friends, is precisely why I am writing this today.  Questioning who we are and what we're doing, in general, asking ourselves from time to time: Where am I headed exactly?  Why do I live and choose and relate the way I do these days?  What is my heart set on?  Is there anything I should be doing differently, or perhaps … not doing at all?

Now, anyone who knows me at all knows I am an introvert and that I seldom mind being alone or quiet or still.  But I am firmly convinced that even the most extraverted among us need occasional–and regular–periods of quiet and stillness.  In addition to sitting on our back patio, one of the things I enjoy most is going on quiet personal retreats, time spent alone with God, just walking, praying, sitting, thinking, reading, and writing.  But while I'm there, I also ask myself those same questions I asked above.  I look to see where God has His finger on my heart.  Our body has a pulse, but so does our soul, and retreats help us take our soul's pulse.  

Though I've gleaned lots of lessons and insights from my retreats over the years, I never leave without the profound conviction that the way we live our lives in the 21st century is not a) normal, b) healthy, or c) sustainable over the long term.  

No matter who you are or how you're wired, whether you're an introvert or an extravert, whether you're action-oriented or comfortable just sitting by yourself in a quiet room alone, you need, however reluctant you may be, occasional–and regular–periods of quiet and stillness.  And people like me also need, however reluctant we may be, occasional–and regular–periods of activity, engagement, community, and relationship.  Neither lifestyle is sustainable by itself over the long-term.

And no matter who you are, this space of quiet and stillness comes at least a little hard.  It's hard to stop spinning the plates, and juggling balls, and satisfying all the demands others (and let's face it, we ourselves) make of us.

Think of it like this.  If you turn a bicycle upside down and spin the pedals around several times and then stop, the wheels will continue to spin for quite a while.  Life is precisely the same way.  It doesn't matter if your life is a tricycle or a road bike or a mountain bike, when you stop pedaling the wheels keep spinning.  So, we need to expect that when we stop, even if we're just getting away to another room in the house, our minds and souls are going to continue to race!  And that's an uncomfortable place to be, and an uncomfortable place to stay.  But when you stay there long enough to allow the wheels to spin down to stillness, a wonderful peace can fall upon you, like dew on new-mown grass.

So here is my question for you:  Are you dictating the pace of your life or is life dictating its own pace to you?  Are you driving or being driven?  Are you Martha, or are you Mary (Luke 10:38-42)?  Let me encourage you to find some quiet corner to sit still for just ten minutes (it can seem like an eternity, I know!).  Take a walk around your neighborhood, or better yet, get out to one of our wonderful metroparks and take a walk in nature (but leave your phone in the car!).  But whatever you do:

Don't lose a minute!  Hurry up!  Take a chance!  Experience life on the edge!  Don't just do something, sit there!

Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.

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