Our youngest son has considerable difficulty playing a number of computer games, particularly those which require him to hold a steady course. Samuel is wired for activity, so when the game requires a steady hand, his constantly adjusting of the controls causes him to crash out. For him, to be in control and guiding through means to be making constant adjustments. It is a temptation not unique to Sam.
Perhaps our generation above all have been hard-wired for activity. With so many different options open and available to us, we are not only accustomed to being on the move, there are many instances where failure to adjust can leave us behind, such is the pace of life.
When I heard a scientist recently observing that the time required to travel to Mars today is the same that was required in the 18th century to get to Australia from Europe, I gained another perspective on the pressures to be on the move, continually adjusting. Stillness and inactivity looms as the ultimate enemy.
Although it is counter-intuitive for us, we need to be reminded that there are times when the best course of action is inaction: to do nothing. To wait. To watch. To pray. To reflect.
In the scriptures we read: “Stand and see this great thing that the Lord will do…”, “Be still and know…” “Those who wait upon the Lord…” Inaction of this kind is born of trust and hope: the belief that God is able to work out His purposes, in spite of our best efforts.
One of the remarkable aspects of Jesus’ passion is his silence in the face of his accusers. With all the resources available, Jesus determines to commit his future into the hands of others, and ultimately the hands of God.
And yet, inaction can also be a form of escapism, an avoidance of responsibilities. As Martha’s anxieties rose while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Jesus detected her concern. His response is not condemning of her action, but her priorities: “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…” (Luke 10:41-42)
In a world torn apart by injustice, we need to live and act for peace and justice. But we also need to be careful that we are not consumed by action: that we allow the times for stillness which give us a fresh sense of perspective and energy, and which allow the voice of God to be heard afresh.
August 22, 2004