Quiet Yourself

By Julie Rhodes

I passed a Wendy’s three weeks ago, and on the sign with the interchangeable letters was written: “Cod is back.” I’m not sure why management thought this message would be particularly attractive to humans driving by, but perhaps those who own Wendy’s franchises are statistically not B.A.’s in Marketing. Nevertheless, cod was back. There it was in black and white.

I drove past this sign again just three days ago. Nothing had changed. Cod was still back, and nothing more needed to be said, and you couldn’t go into that restaurant and order a burger or a chicken salad or a chili-potato without knowing that you were effectively denying yourself cod. As much as you might hate cod, or as indifferent as you had been your entire life towards cod up to this point, the fact remained — you no longer had any excuse for missing your chance.

Maybe, like me, you thought the sign must have said, “God is back.” From about 500 feet, that’s certainly how the sign first appeared to me. And how my sentence above must have looked to you. This was startling. Who was Wendy’s to tell me God was back?  

As unlikely as this message might be, it still seemed more likely than an advertisement for fish. And it got me thinking, as much about marketing and copywriting as it did about the question: could God be, somehow, more available to me in a way I hadn’t thought was possible?  

A few days after this, I was taking a walk in my neighborhood. I have a wonderful street with lots of big oak trees, and I like to trudge up the sidewalk and pray, mostly every Sunday. I was unburdening myself to God — or rather, into the air — like I normally do, talking almost out loud, in a hushed whisper, which made me feel crazed. I was earnestly advocating and interceding for burdens too big to bear in my life and in the lives of people I love the most. It was a truly honest monologue. I say it was a monologue and I say I was unburdening myself into the air because what happened next surprised me.

I didn’t hear an audible voice from God, but I had a very startling impression. It was a simple interruption to my chain of thought and words. The impression, or perhaps you could call it an inner voice, or a very distinct idea bursting into bloom within me was simply, “Shh. I’m here. Don’t TALK so much.”

That was it.

It wasn’t a direct answer to the burden I was trying to unburden. It didn’t address my request at all. More than that, it seemed to hush me, like It didn’t want to hear any more about it. Which was strangely comforting. I didn’t want to hear any more about it, either. I just wanted to walk. For once. And so I decided to walk in that Shh, to just walk up to the end of Glenco Terrace, turn left on Warner Rd, then make a full circle back home. Have you ever just done something in all its simplicity?

And ever since, I’ve been returning — stumbling and mumbling, mostly — to that Shh.

Psalm 131 says:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
  my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
  or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,    
  I am like a weaned child with its mother;    
  like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord    
  both now and forevermore.

This Psalm — did you notice? It’s only three verses. (The shortest of ALL the Psalms — 117 — is only two verses.) The Psalm writer lives his words: he literally quiets himself after verse 3.

The psalmist sits with the Giver of all plenty — all milk and honey and clarity and wisdom —  and doesn’t cry for any of that any more. No, not any more. He is weaned from the gifts as he sits with the Giver.  

Like me, I’m sure you face “great matters.” They are very much beyond you. You’ve tried to understand them and taken them to God many times. But perhaps when you take them to God, you are trying to exchange them for wisdom or clarity or direction or comfort. And what could be wrong with that exchange? Maybe you’re not even asking for resolution of the thing itself — you’re not THAT bold anymore — but just a quiet sense of understanding, of knowing the purpose behind it. You bring your humble confusion to God, and you want to trade it in for even a small glimpse of understanding. And you get nothing. He does not make the exchange.

And maybe if he does not make the exchange, it’s because he is weaning you —weaning me — from control and self-sufficiency, the paltry skim milk of a life lived apart from him. Clarity and understanding — even comfort — are thin rations compared to Companionship with him. In my very calmest and quietest moments, I see this, I revel in this, I live this. So I’m going to try to walk in the Shh today, as best I can.

Let the fact of him alone be hope for you — if you can.

If you can, just quiet yourself for this very small moment of breath. 

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