We sat in the front pew at church yesterday, our first Sunday to attend Mass as a family of six. It had been a long night; Michael decided to nurse every two hours, which meant for every just-over-an-hour I slept, I was up for half an hour. I was kind of a zombie. And in my groggy state, one word jumped out at me.
It’s a word that seems to go with Advent: For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits. It’s something that so many of us aspire to, strive for, the chance to be “quiet alert” in the presence of God. To set aside the noisy bombardment that overstimulates our brains and deadens the soul, and simply be: be aware of the connection to an invisible dimension, be open to a voice that speaks in the quiet.
And I realized how rarely I attain stillness.
When it comes, it sneaks up on me, a breathless, fleeting moment that I’m usually ill-equipped to appreciate. Last Saturday night when my parents, Michael and I arrived home from the hospital, the house was quiet, its other occupants off at a concert. I caught my breath. “It’s so quiet,” I said. I’ve never thought of my house as quiet, but after living in the hum of a hospital for ten days–fluorescent buzzing, air systems rumbling, monitors beeping, voices everywhere at all times of the day and night–my living room felt like a tabernacle of restful repose. But I didn’t stop to enjoy it. There was too much clutter to be filed and organized, and a family to prepare for.
This, I suppose, is why I crave the solitude of nature, far from the noise of traffic and the sight of manmade things. Stillness equals rest. It reorganizes the mind, untangles the pathways, allows us to see more clearly and approach life with serenity.
But I don’t think we find stillness very often. And I don’t mean physical stillness, although that’s probably true, too. I mean stillness of the soul. I think we all seek it, but don’t find it very often. We can blame modern life–ipods and a sound byte culture, too many technological toys, too many social networks–but you might as well rail against the sun rising; barring an apocalypse, all that stuff is here to stay.
Life in a religious order often sounds very appealing to me: the rhythm of morning and evening prayer, the focus on contemplation and the search for God, the lack of little commitments yelling “Mommy do this” and “Can I have” that. But I imagine it’s a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence kind of thing, and motherhood is my vocation in any case. I’m beginning to see that the divine call for all of us is to seek what we may never, or at least rarely, attain.
And maybe, after all, it’s the seeking that’s most important.