Today was the end of regular radiation and tomorrow begins 4 concentrated doses to a smaller area. This required new, super-duper x-rays in order for the radiation field to be precise to the designated area, and believe me, I do want precise. (Can I hear an Amen?) If I heard it once, I heard it a dozen times, “Be real still, Ms. Smith; this won’t take too long.” (It did.) “Ms. Smith, try to be still, now; we’ll be done in a few minutes.” (They weren’t.) “Oh, Ms. Smith! Don’t move or we’ll have to do that film over!” (They did.)
Meanwhile, I examined the multitasking Star Wars and wondered how it could do x-rays and with a few clicks of the technician’s fingers, switch over to radiation. Intriguing…or scary…however you want to view it. My thoughts wandered as the eye of Star Wars widened and narrowed, buzzed and dinged in its course of circling my body and doing what it does. I prayed for wisdom, prayed for friends and family, prayed for clients. I prayed for the ability to lie still for as long as needed; I was struggling. My tail bone was numb, my back was cramping, and my arms, which were stretched up over my head, were cold and asleep. By the time the process was over, the thought had begun to cross my mind that we were going to have to stop and take a break because my shoulders were beginning to cramp.
Being still is not a strong suit for me, probably not a strength for most Westerners. Until recent months, I rarely lighted in one place for long, because it seemed something else always ‘needed’ to be done, another errand ‘needed’ to be gone on. Silly me. I’ve been quickly discovering just how much can go UN-done without me! (Dog hairballs – UNITE!) With a computer-phone super-glued to most of us, equipped with every imaginable form of modern communication and form of fact-finding, how can one be still in this life we find ourselves living?
God, through the Psalmist, stated in Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God. This Psalm begins and ends by telling us that God is our refuge, a safe place, someone we want to run to when there is a need for protection, safety, or in a time of crisis. However, if we don’t have an intimate knowledge of the character of God – we don’t know Him – well, it isn’t likely we are going to run to a stranger for that kind of comfort, is it?
Be still means to cease striving, letting go, and to surrender in Hebrew. When I think about ‘striving’ here, for some reason, I get the picture in my head of a very tired, sleepy 2-year-old who needs a nap, but is throwing a tantrum on the way to her bed because she doesn’t want a nap! Then, when mom lays her down and gives her the blanket, she snuggles up and goes to sleep in the safety and comfort of her familiar bed. God says, when you come to Me, stop fighting me, know Me, you will welcome me as your refuge.
But being still requires solitude, which many of us wrestle with because, as Henri Nouwen wrote, it requires that “I get rid of my scaffolding,” – friends, phone calls, meetings, music, books, it’s “just me-naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken-nothing…yet, solitude is the place of transformation.”
Solitude is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs (Henri Nouwen), and, I might add, where we learn to let go, cease striving, and surrender.
I said to my soul, be still and wait…so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. T.S. Elliot