Inner Stillness

Contemplative Stillness

BLOG #16 February 16, 2021

Over the past few months we have considered three contemplative postures 1) contemplative Simplicity, which seeks detachment and humility. 2) contemplative Solitude, which rests in, engages with, and consents to true presence in all aspects of our lives, which is the liminal place from which we are graced with the ability to truly say, “Here I am Lord.” 3) contemplative Silence, that allows us, by God’s grace, to enter into the holy space where all creation flows from God. In Silence we are gifted with the ability to truly hear, as did Elijah on Mount Horeb, the voice of God, and to say with young Samuel, “Your servant is listening, speak to me Lord.” In these we have become open to the shedding distractions that blind us to God’s truth, as we have explored becoming present to Reality, and have considered the path through which we are graced to enter into a way of listening. In Silence we move toward a way of being in which God directs us and we can respond well to God’s direction. Last week we considered some concepts within the movement from Silence to Stillness. We now pursue a deeper understanding of stillness. It is important to remember that Simplicity and Solitude are contemplative orientations, or postures, that can be initiated by a Rule of Life that we put into motion in cooperation with God’s grace. Outward Silence, similarly, is a combination of our actions and God’s grace, whereas inner silence is something that we are drawn into purely by the grace of God. There is nothing we can do to make it happen, for inner silence is God’s silence in which the “I” begins to be included and transcended into being totally identified with Christ Jesus that we might hear at the core of our being our calling to silent service for the glory of God and for the transformation of the world around us, for the sake of God and other people. This silence leads into Stillness which is known to us purely by the grace of God. Contemplative stillness is not anything we do, as much as it is something done to us. God stills us.

I have heard some very knowledgeable and well-meaning Christians say that inner stillness is not possible. Most of these individuals allow for the possibility of simplicity, solitude, and silence because in some (admittedly small) ways we can employ contemplative practices that set the stage, if you will, to move, or be drawn into these ways of being. Simplicity through active detachment that leads to the grace of inner detachment; solitude by actively recollecting and becoming present to our environment that we might receive the grace of true Holy presence. Likewise, we can do something to actively find relatively quiet places in which we can receive the grace to hear and enter into the silence from which all creation flows. To be sure, we cannot accomplish any of these without God’s grace, but there is at least a perceived feeling that we can do something that will move us toward these contemplative ways of being. This is not true of contemplative stillness, which is made possible purely by the grace of God. This way of being is understandably a difficult concept for us to wrap our minds around. This difficulty is exacerbated by the reality that we do not experience this stillness in the way that we usually define experience. Instead, it is something that God gives us that we only realize has occurred based on the changes that are wrought in us. Contemplative stillness is known only by the fruit of the gift as these appear in our everyday life. Herein we discover that the contemplative way is not based on an experience but based on a greater awareness of the changes that have occurred from the gift of being stilled and thus surrendered to God’s will. To conquer the inner struggle between our willfulness and God’s will in our lives is a pure act of God’s grace. In fact, we cannot know contemplative stillness apart from the inactive way of simply and effortlessly letting go and being. Contemplative stillness is the grace “letting go” of a tight controlling grip on life, so we may passively discern the appropriate action that is in accordance with God’s will and not ours. I say passively, because to be still is to “be” in such a way that action flows without effort and without effecting our stillness. Right action simply happens because God, who we have come to know, has stilled us. Contemplative stillness is a kenotic way of being that allows us to have a deep Gethsemane experience where we without effort or resistance, from our deepest true self, cry out to God, “Not my will but your will be done Lord.” In so doing we acknowledge that God’s way is the better way. In fact, it is not a way of doing at all. It is a way of being. Meister Eckhart called this “living without a why.” In this we move closer to a realization of our union with God. We also come to the realization that what we really desire, have desired all along, is for God’s will to be our will, and that unbeknownst to us God’s will has really been our deepest desire as well. Contemplative stillness is thus very much akin to Peace, Shalom, as we become tired of the inner struggle to get our way. The irony thus being that we think our way is actually our true desire. This sounds odd at first until we realize, or finally admit to ourselves, that the inner struggle to maintain control is both fruitless and is keeping us from moving forward to the full glory and effect of knowing our union with God. In the way of contemplative stillness, we cease grasping for control of that which is temporal. We become open, or more accurately opened, to an awakening of that which the Lord desires, which we quickly discover to be the source of meaning and purpose that we have been seeking all our lives.

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. NRS Psalm 37:7

Awakening to union with God begins when we agree that God’s ways are higher than ours, God’s way is a better way, and that God knows and desires the best for us from an eternal perspective. Contemplative stillness, at its core, is us giving up the inner chaotic struggle that comes from the clash between what think we desire and God’s desire. Again, the movement is from messy and destructive willfulness to Peace and Joy in Christ Jesus. Stillness is a way of being willing. Willing to be our trues selves, who we are created to be; God’s Image bearers and God’s children, called to bear God’s likeness of Love, Peace and Joy, to the world for the glory of God and the sake of others.

In a very real sense, in contemplative silence we come to know ourselves (our true desires) and God more intimately. For the more we know ourselves the more we know God, and the more we know God the more we know ourselves. This is the power behind Psalm 46:10a, “Be still and know that I am God.”

To enter into this way of contemplative stillness cannot be done as a willful gesture, for it must come from a willing humble and unadorned heart. In fact, contemplative stillness is not an attempt by us to be still, as much as it is a way of surrender by which we are stilled by, and in, the majestic, awesome presence of God, which we have discovered by way of contemplative solitude. What is stilled is the ego that seeks to have its way. In the stilling we are enabled to truly say, “not my will but your will be done, Lord”, and in so doing awaken to the truth that God’s will has been the will of our true self all along.

God bless you all.

Gene Yotka

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