Growing Still is an Advent practice of being still for an increasing amount of time each day of the season – from one minute on December 1st to 24 minutes on Christmas Eve.
Today’s practice of stillness is 4 minutes.
“Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food and one of you tells them, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily.’ If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead.” – James 2:15-17
“It wasn’t my turn.”
My friend Gayle is a nurse. She used to work at one of the local high schools in town, the school that her boys and my children attended. A student came to her office one morning, complaining of a headache and a stomach ache. When Gayle asked him if he had eaten anything for breakfast, he said, matter of factly, “It wasn’t my turn.”
Some words can pull you up short; grab hold of your heart and your mind, and hold them up to your face asking you, ‘what do you see?’
Gayle told that story recently. Yesterday, in my three minutes of stillness the young man’s response echoed in the growing emptiness of the moment, bouncing around in the hollow space of my preconceived ideas of what hunger looks like, quietly insisting to be heard.
Stillness can be perceived as a selfish practice. “Me time.” And to a certain extent that is true. But stillness before God is a different kind of ‘me time;’ it’s a shape me time, re-frame me time, re-new me time – make me new. It’s a time when we make room to hear the voices that we need to hear, even the ones that disturb us, that challenge us to be who we think we are.
Advent is about preparing for the birth of Jesus, not just in a manger, but in us. We should be different for having embraced Advent. If faith does not act, if I can hear “It wasn’t my turn” and rest comfortably in my stillness, then I have missed the way of Jesus.
The practice of stillness does not always end when the timer says our four minutes are up. Sometimes the call heard in stillness is to Incarnation – responding as the hands and feet of God in the world.
Following that call may turn out to be your best, most unexpected, gift this Christmas.
Grace for the journey.