February 21, 2013
“Good night friends! Tomorrow begins a 40 day Facebook fast for Lent. Looking forward to being fully present to those around me and to clearing out mental clutter to more clearly hear the still, small voice of God.” ~ Facebook friend
These words and images appeared in separate status updates from friends on my Facebook last week. It was just after I blogged about tuning out Facebook a bit more in order to be more fully present and to find a new state of mind. It seems many of us were thinking about seeking more stillness.
But how well are we doing? As for me, I’ve been struggling for a while to be still.
In 2009, I was exploring running for the Chicago City Council. The director of the “From Harvard Square to the Oval Office” women’s political practicum in which I had participated was asking me when I was going to move from working others’ campaigns to launching my own.
As I tried to discern the right timing and path for my personal entrance into the political fray, I gathered a group of friends to meet with me regularly to pray. A number of months into the process, one of the women told me that she believed that God had given her some words for me from Psalm 46:10– “Be still and know that I am God.” She and the other women prayed over me. Shortly thereafter, I accepted that I indeed needed to be still and wait on God for some other opportunity to launch a political career.
A huge burden of stress was lifted from my shoulders. I literally felt the difference.
In retrospect, I realized that I had been working too hard and too alone. A number of people who had originally encouraged me and had signed up to help weren’t following through. Though I had successfully begun raising money, and it looked from the outside like all systems were go, I had the sense that something wasn’t right. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and I had plenty of understanding about and preparation for the challenges of running for political office. But I had been asking myself how hard I should have to struggle to pry doors open. Were the obstacles and questions I was facing signs that this was not what the universe had for me at this moment? It wasn’t until I stepped back that I was more fully able to hear the still, small voice.
Yet I surrendered to the call to be still in some ways but not others. I felt good about my decision not to run for office at that time. But I didn’t take my friend’s prophetic words to mean that I should disengage from politics altogether. Shortly thereafter I jumped in full throttle to a mayoral campaign. I don’t know for sure that I was supposed to take that route. It wasn’t until I nearly collapsed in exhaustion after the mayoral race that I finally truly sought to be still.
My year-long-sabbatical from politics gave me more perspective. As I have listened to that still, small voice, I have come to believe that God is going to have me keep waiting and trusting for a while longer. I must admit that I wrestle with that on a regular basis. And I sometimes get confused when others’ voices encourage me to put my hat in the political ring sometime soon. It’s hard to know which voices are which.
In the midst of this on and off conversation with myself, friends and colleagues, and God, my impatient self ran across a booklet by Joyce Meyer: When, God, When? Learning to Trust in God’s Timing. The funny thing is, I don’t think I had ever read anything by Joyce Meyer. But this booklet somehow ended up in a stack of devotional readings I had crammed in my bedside table. It caught my eye just at the right time.
A couple of thoughts particularly spoke to me. Meyer suggests the following:
- Enjoy the present while waiting for your calling to be fulfilled. Too often we get so focused on the goal that we forget to appreciate the process, and even the waiting. And life passes us by.
- Sometimes God is preparing others that are supposed to be on the journey with you. You may be ready, but your partners may not.
The latter really rang true for me. As I was reflecting on Meyer’s writings, I noted with amazement how God is so clearly at work in the life of one of the people I had most expected to have by my side in my political journey. And I am excited to think about some significant support-system relationships where baby steps toward reconciliation have begun or new ones have been born. Meanwhile, I realize that there are other key characters who are not yet fully bought into my dream.
So I’m trying to heed Meyer’s advice. I try to focus on being faithful in the little things day to day. And to not miss out on joy by trying in my own strength to force the birth of my vision in my own timing. “Be still and know that I am God.”
More than three years after my aldermanic exploration, two years after the mayoral campaign, and nearly six months after my year-long sabbatical, I keep trying (and often failing) to be quiet and listen and be still.