I'd recently scrawled the reminder at the top of my New Year's resolutions list. Yet while I'd attempted variations of this goal in the past, inevitably I'd return home from a frustrating day at work, throw myself on the couch, snap on whatever mindless reality show or banal sitcom I could find, and relax. At least I thought I was relaxing, judging from the countless times I'd fall asleep in front of my blaring television set.
So when my boyfriend suggested we "relax" after a stressful evening spent stirring up a complicated risotto and then soaping up a tall stack of dishes, I assumed he meant "watch TV." But once we settled onto the couch, he merely leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "What are you thinking?" I inquired after a long two minutes of silence. "I'm thinking how nice it is just to be still," he answered.
Be still. Those words are the opening command of the life verse I claimed years ago in my church's Bible club. Knowing my tendency to worry, I chose Psalm 46:10a—"Be still, and know that I am God"—a verse centered in a passage detailing fear-inducing catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and wars. Be calm, I interpreted the comforting command. Don't worry. Be emotionally still.
But now, hearing those words in my quiet living room, I discerned a different meaning. Be physically still. And don't make a sound. After all, catastrophes such as the ones recorded in Psalm 46—and the lesser ones encountered in my busy schedule—induce frantic activity, cries for help, sometimes wails of despair. But despite the noise and motion of the roaring waters and cracking mountains—and hectic life pace of the 21st century—the command is not to move.1