As I write this, I am sipping dye in wait for a large machine to tell me to be still and to hold my breath while I get yet another CT scan. It’s time, of course. Even though Not Cancer was not cancer, it still has to be watched so to make sure it doesn’t become cancer; which means that, at least for now, my life is punctuated every three months with the robotic voice and a light that tells me when it’s okay to breathe again.
Generally, I am annoyingly optimistic. How do I know it’s annoying? Because people tell me. A friend in seminary called me Pollyanna (a reference I only vaguely got – but felt the sarcasm fully). But even for me, it is hard to be optimistic sliding into a machine that whirls and pings as it gives, in all it’s medical advancement, another three months to keep the not of Not Cancer.
This evening’s psalm doesn’t help me get to the annoyingly optimistic place I generally call home, but it does give me a good word that I need to hear from something other than the CT machine today: be still.
Psalm 46 is a community song of confidence; it is a celebration of God’s presence among God’s people. The water imagery is reminiscent of Psalm 42, but the imagery moves in the opposite direction. In Psalm 42, the psalmist uses water imagery to move from stillness to chaos; her life is thrown up into the air and all she longs for is God’s stillness. In Psalm 46, we get the opposite, the community is racked with chaos with roaring waters and mountains in tumult, and then all stops. All stops because the people notice that God is present in their very city; not only has God not abandoned them, God is right beside them.
Then comes the command, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is not an invitation from God to know God’s presence when we are ready. It is not a polite suggestion that perhaps our lives would be a bit better if we just slowed down a bit and noticed that God is, in fact, with us. “Be still” is a command. The peace and stillness that comes from this community remembering who they are and whose they are results in a heightened sense of awareness about God’s presence in their life. And because God is who God is, this itself begets peace, confidence, and joy.
Even on a rainy Thursday waiting for the whirling machine to tell me that I’m the same level of okay that I have been in the past three months, this is a good, important word for me. I needed this reminder that to pay attention, even in the midst of the chaos of a Cancer center, yields an awareness of God’s presence and that even, and especially, in times like this, it’s important to be still.