Be Still and Know that I am God
by Kathleen Moloney-Tarr
On this second day of a silent retreat, alone in the North Carolina mountains, a line circles over and over in my mind. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) This becomes the prayer of my day. As the words turn inside my head, they become a ribbon of comfort, an invitation to well-being. My heart opens; I feel more spacious.
I first heard these words at a Taizé service in 2003 when they were read to introduce a time of silence. I noticed them because my body immediately relaxed when they were spoken. Now I think about the meaning of the words and consider different ways to approach them. I list them one by one down the left side of my notebook.
Be – just be, be in this moment. You don’t have to do anything or accomplish tasks or move forward. Just be present, be you, be here now. Accept this moment for all that it is.
Still – quiet, silent, without movement or sound; separate from all activity; aware of nothing and everything. Nothing is required in mind or body. Filled with quietude that opens space and wonder.
Be still – ah, these two words ring together. Often children hear them when their parents are settling them down at the restaurant table or easing their argument with a sibling. Is this invitation to each of us any different? Put away your activity, stop talking and thinking, let yourself settle down, let go of whatever you are doing. Become smooth and clear like glass and continue to be even now…and now…and now in this moment. Continue just to be; be still.
And – connect, join, bring together. This word that joins two equal thoughts now signals to us that once you are quiet, motionless in mind and body, something else may happen. Being still is a beginning, a setting of the context so that something important can follow.
Know – accept what is true; see the reality of the situation; surrender to the truth. Perhaps true knowing comes only when we cease our business and busyness; perhaps truth needs the context of silence to be known.
That – Here is a signal that a fact is coming; something is going to be pointed out to us.
I – Who? You? The Divine? God? Only one, a singular presence, not a group or we, but someone I have a relationship with, someone of presence.
Am – The second form of the verb “to be” exists in this phrase. When we say, “I am something,” we state our reality either in roles, “I am a doctor, I am a daughter, I am a teacher, I am a seeker,” or in expression of our current state of being, “I am happy, disappointed, in awe, hungry.” Either way we cross the threshold of belonging in some way.
God – The name of something larger than anything; that which connects all of life, the divine force or energy of life, the great mystery, the creative force, the divine unknown; the mystery which is ever present.
Be still and know that I am God. These words alone and in combination invite me to reflect, to have faith, to let go of what I think I must do and to surrender to something far greater than myself.
Could it be that when I am still I can better know that God is in me? Is the invitation nested in this line to know more certainly the presence of God? Could I find communion with the sacred when I am willing to let go of what I think must be done?
The writing of these words and some thoughts about them affirms that which lies in the undercurrents of my being. A smoothness settles in my soul. I breathe deeply and draw gratitude with each breath. Here, then, is the gift of silence. We are invited to listen carefully and to open to things differently than when we think of them. Wonder expands our inner spaces and then fills us, letting our spirits hum with renewal.
Kathleen is a graduate of Shalem’s Spiritual Guidance Program, Class of 2006.