In Still Waters
I read it this afternoon, listening to the tree frog croak to the wind,
“A life all turbulence and noise may seem
To him that leads it wise and to be praised,
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still waters.”
The eighteenth-century poet William Cowper penned these powerful words. And if ever there was a time for reflecting on the pool of truth contained within, perhaps it is in our twenty-first century.
A life of noise, those front-stage and center, garner our enthusiasm, accolades, and even worship. Too often the louder the voice, the more powerful the praise. We believe that because someone has 1000 likes on Instagram or a winning platform for a New York Times best-seller this automatically means they are worth our time, our attention, our money.
But what of the widow who has learned the beauty of brokenness in the shadows with no one watching? What of the young man marked by obscurity, yet faithfully rescuing those from trafficking in another country? We may not know their names, or ever hear them give a talk from center stage, yet they are discovering true success in the shadows. They have quieted themselves first in still waters.
Might we have a passion for obscurity? Might we seek hiddenness? Might we long for the still waters?
Henri Nouwen prophetically implored us to embrace littleness, hiddenness, and powerlessness. Embrace it, reach for it, put it into our grasp.
Littleness is defined as “small in amount or degree; not much.”
Who among us desires to be “not much”?
Hiddenness is “concealed; obscure; covert.”
Do I desire to remain concealed?
Powerlessness: “unable to produce an effect.”
This is tough stuff. In our American culture, we tend to gravitate to the loud, bold, and sensational. Even in the celebrity Christian culture we have created, we tend to forget the power and beauty of hiddenness.
Gordon MacDonald wisely assessed the situation years ago when he wrote in Ordering Your Private World,
“...Our American curiosity and our tendency to blab about everything that is personal to us even if it risks uncovering too much of ourselves. One does wonder if we have simply talked too much in our books and magazine articles--told each other too much when we should have reserved the conversation for God alone.”
There are places that should be reserved for God alone. Still waters where no one else travels with us, except the Creator of our souls.
Wisdom is gained in the quiet, obscurity, hiddenness. Truth that may never be shared with anyone other than you and your Creator. We cannot find it in the busyness, disorder, and noise of living life on stage. We need to cultivate it in the quiet.
The Psalmist proclaimed that the Shepherd of our souls leads us beside these still waters. Our Savior is beckoning us to come and drink from the cup of stillness. It is only in these times of quiet, naked before the Creator, that we can truly die.
The secret we learn in still waters is self-surrender. Here, in the quiet, there are no watching eyes or listening ears to impress. It is only us and our God. This is where we come to die, to be raised up with Him.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
Lord, help us to seek out still waters in order to cultivate wisdom in the secret. May we learn to embrace a life of self-surrender and littleness, as we let You shepherd our souls. And there, in the still waters as we partake of the cup of death, we find our life is now hidden in You.