Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cease Striving: Let it Go

"Cease striving. Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Can you put yourself in the picture above? How wonderful if we could sit beside the streams of flowing water for just a while, and take in the sounds and earthy aromas of the woodlands and waterfalls! That primal connection between rest or relaxation and water is widely acknowledged, if not understood, and is the basis for replicating sounds of trickling and flowing water in spas, relaxing music, even in sleep machines. The sound triggers the imagination and memory, but does not replace experiencing the presence of actual flowing water in this beautiful setting. At such a time, I just close my eyes and lodge it securely in my mind, banking it for memory.

The directive 'cease striving' means in the Hebrew, "let your hands drop"...."let go". It is a simple practice I like to incorporate and one small step to enhance relaxation. One of the easiest ways to be aware of signs of physical stress is to look at our hands. When our hands are gripping each other, or clenched, or fingers are nervously fidgeting, these are visible indicators of inner conflict or stress. Notice your hands and unclasp them, then hold them palms up, loosely cupped, in your lap or in a neutral position. Repeatedly doing this little exercise helps us become aware of the stress cycle we unwittingly perpetuate in our bodies all the time. Similar steps are to relax a furrowed brow, drop and roll shoulders to relax tension in the neck, and otherwise address the ways our bodies hold onto stress. Learning how to let go can feel artificial at first, but can become second nature to us as we learn means of practicing peace in spite of our circumstances.

We struggle to hold on to things we should let go all the time. If we release or commit our cares to the One who cares for us, we take a first step in acknowledging that we are in the healing presence of God With Us - Emmanuel. We learn to rely on God and to relax in the Presence so that we can learn to wait on God's provision. I need to emphasize that for myself:

Release or commit cares
Rely on God
Relax in God's Presence
Wait on God's provision.

Relaxing hands and furrowed brows is but a step in becoming aware of how our physical posture affects our mental/emotional state. Please do not mistake suggestions or practices or coping skills as substitutions for putting ourselves squarely in the presence of God who alone gives Peace and transforms our hearts and minds. We can become enslaved by human rules of how to 'do it right' and miss the point. We can begin to think we've got it all together and are doing pretty well by ourselves, thank you. A prideful self-confidence or independent spirit has no need of relying on God for much of anything.

There is an interesting caution in Jeremiah 2:12,13 that reminds me of the human tendency to strive for independence at great cost.

"Be appalled, O heavens, at this; Be utterly shocked, declares the Lord, for My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves - broken cisterns that can hold no water."

Cisterns are just man-made pottery for collecting and saving water. Accumulating cisterns - broken ones at that - is no match for living in the presence of the fount of living water!

"Let it go. Be still and know that I am God. And I will be exalted among the nations."

Photo by Prentice Stabler, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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