Last night I had an appointment for 7:50. They called just as I got dinner on the table and asked me to come early, which is how I ended up careening down the road in the rain with a plate of meat loaf in my lap.
I was getting an MRI done on a pituitary tumor I’ve had since my teens. It’s not a big deal, just something they repeat every few years. And I tried to tell myself that lying very still for an hour is what every mother dreams of.
But anyone who has had an MRI knows, lying in that tiny tube with your head held in place and a jack hammer in your ear is sometimes nothing short of panic inducing.
I took long deep breaths and focused on the tiny mirror in front of my eyes, my only window to Outside. My brain hunted desperately for something to do besides scream when I realized I could pray… uninterrupted but for the cacophany of the magnet whirling around me.
So I started in on my list, lifting up my people from oldest to youngest. I thought on their individual verses and prayed for the things I knew they struggled with.
And that sounds really spiritual and lovely, but you need to know that I wasn’t two people into my list before my head was a swirling vortex of anxiety and guilt as the Spirit convicted me of all the ways I’d goofed up loving my people that day. My heart clenched at all the problems I wanted desperately to fix, to make better. I blinked frantically and tried not to swallow or move my head while I wrested my focus back to the tiny mirror to Outside.
Another slow, careful breath (but not so big that it made me move) and I started over, praying deliberately.
And the cycle repeated. I didn’t have to get very far to realize my own sins and failures against my kids. The ways I let them down. I began to worry anew about some crisis or another and then would claw my way back up the rabbit hole of anxiety by begging Jesus to make right what I couldn’t.
And I may have had a bit of Church right there in that big ol’ magnet, if I could have only lifted my hand in praise.
Because though I was very still, in my head I had my hands wide open, full of questions, full of surrender, empty of myself. And I had them aimed right at the Only One with any answers.
The longer I had to be still, the tougher it got. I began begging God to keep me from anxiety. “Why, God, do I go to the dark places, the hard places, when I am still? Isn’t this what you want, all of us still before you? So why is it so terrifying?”
I pondered that awhile and then realized that my prayers in utter stillness… they beget more prayer. And that really is the point. Prayers in the quiet, when our hands aren’t busy and our eyes aren’t roving, they lay us open and bare before our Maker. They humble us, make us see how weak and helpless we are. And in turn, we reach out for God more.
But I’m busy. Sometimes I like to think I’m doing ok as I muddle through the day. That I’m holding up, managing All The Things, tossing up prayers as I go. But if I’m really still and lay my heart before God, I realize where I fail, where I am weak, and where He must be strong.
And that makes me lean into Him all the more.
But stillness is scary. I’ve gotten better at the discipline of prayer, but the stillness? Not so much. Because it’s scary. It makes me stare the Brokenness in the face. Yet it’s in the face of all the brokenness that He Who Heals is glorified, that His strength carries me.
But I have my pride. Being a parent, being a wife, being a daughter, being a friend… all these thing drive me to my knees regularly. But sometimes I don’t think I stay there long enough to let the bottom fall out, to open my arms wide and free fall into the strong arms of Christ. I’d rather dance around the ledge just long enough to ask for help and then lean back against my boulder-sized pride in myself for safety.
Now that I’ve laid in the stillness and felt the fall, felt utterly weak and utterly held, I know to seek the stillness more. (And preferably more often than my regularly scheduled MRI.) Today I keep returning to the feeling I had when I prayed in the tube, the leaning into the whirl, the utter surrender of my pride and freedom.
I don’t know how to achieve Ultimate Stillness every day. It feels impossible for this mother of seven.
But I know I need to reach for it more, to schedule an hour of no multi-tasking into my weeks. And to keep leaning into He Who Comes In Stillness until at last He comes in Thunder and I can face Him with arms raised in praise, unbroken and properly focused at last.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
*When are you still? How do you achieve Ultimate Stillness without medical intervention?