You Need Only to Be Still
I’m a recovering perfectionist. To give you an idea of the exact scale of my malady: I cried the first time I got a B+ in college. We’re not talking a few tears, either. We’re talking I called my mom and sobbed because, as far as I could tell, the world was ending. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Gasp, sob, sniffle This is going to RUIN my final grade!
Mom: You know, sweetie, a B+ isn’t a bad grade, and it was just one test.
Me: Sniffle, sob But, gasp for air, sob what if I want gasp for air to sniffle go to sob grad school sniffle someday?
Mom: You want to go to grad school? Well, you know – it’s still your first semester; you’ve got lots of time! Did I mention a B+ isn’t a bad grade? And it was just one test!
Me: Gasp You sob just sob don’t gasp for air understand! Cue my meltdown into uncontrollable weeping.
Let’s just say it was a mildly horrific day for both of us – bless my mom’s heart.
So, anyway, as a recovering perfectionist, I’m learning to integrate the word messy into my vocabulary more and more. I’m systematic; I’m organized. I don’t like messy. But life is messy. And the more you dive in and really invest in people and relationships and emotions, the messier it can get.
And, whether it’s a broken relationship in my own life or gazing into the eyes of a neglected orphan in Africa, I’ve had lots of messy, B+ moments – moments when I’m starring down the barrel of something truly terrible or shocking, something far from perfect, on the brink of a meltdown, wondering how I could possibly make things right. And my instinct is to push back – to struggle and resist and fight to fix things.
And so I trudge through piles of pain and deceit up to my chin. I elbow my way through death and disease and jealousy and pride and hunger and hate – fighting for justice, fighting for order, and sometimes simply fighting to stay standing.
And it’s in those moments that I return to Exodus 14. I can sympathize with the Israelites. Things weren’t going the way they had planned. Pharaoh’s army was pursuing them. Things seemed hopeless. They wanted to go back to Egypt. They craved structure. They craved order.
Their solution? Cry about it to Moses. And, with a hint of maternal affection, Moses tells it like it is: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
Stop whining, he implored. Nothing you can do is going to make this better. You can’t make this right. But just watch. Be still. God’s already got it covered; let Him do the fighting. You need only to be still.
You need only to be still. I can do that. I can be still.
And it’s in the stillness that God gives His next command. It’s out of the stillness that God sets His saving acts into motion. I don’t need to fight, because I’ll never win on my own accord. But, in the midst of the messiness, I can be still. And I can listen. And then I can follow His lead. My effort alone will never be enough; I’ll never be perfect. But I follow the One who is – and He fights for me and makes a way. So I choose to be still. I choose to focus on Him and then watch the messiness and imperfection melt away.
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