For Worriers Like Me, Learning to ‘Be Still’ is a Challenge

“Be Still. And Know that I am God.”

Johannes Vermeer, “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary,” ca. 1655
Johannes Vermeer, “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary,” ca. 1655 (photo: Public Domain)

I’m a worrier. I worry whether the Catholic Church has moral authority in the world. I worry about that radicalization of Washington. I worry that I don’t read enough to my 4 year-old. I worry that we’ve run out of milk. Which we usually have.

I try to bring all of these worries (and others) to Jesus in the Mass. To place them at the foot of the cross. To trust that all will be well. 

But, because I am a worrier, I tend to forget having done so soon after Mass has ended. To remind myself, I bought a huge, framed poster for the office at home and hung it on the wall facing opposite of my desk. It quotes Psalm 46:10:

Be Still. And know that I am God.

Now, in addition to being a worrier, being “still” is a bit of a challenge for me. With seven children still at home, I am constantly running the washing machine and dryer, fixing a meal or catching one of my children to confirm that chores and homework have been done before they race outside to play. The work of the home, plus my professional work, has kept me in a constant state of motion for the past 23 years.
And then along came the coronavirus.

When the governor of my state issued a stay-at-home order almost a year ago, our schools sent children home.

My children coming back home again threw a major wrench into what I thought was a well-oiled machine. I panicked.
Thankfully, friends invited us to stay with them at their cabin in the mountains for what we thought would be a two-week respite to “flatten the curve.” We packed up enough clothes and provisions and headed out of town. We were “still” — as much as any large family can be.

Within walking distance of their cabin is a small mission parish. Although live Masses were suspended, the church remained open for prayer. I made the mile or so walk daily down the mountain to check in with Jesus — sometimes with one or two of my children. This “still time” offered us a moment of tranquility during a time of great uncertainty.
After our two-week mountain retreat, schools started to send at-home learning assignments and scheduling online classes. A vacation cabin, even one with high-speed internet, is not an ideal place to restart a routine of study or work. So we returned home.

Eventually everyone settled into a routine. I livestreamed daily Mass and was able to file a brief in the Supreme Court. The children kept up with their assignments (okay, we missed a Zoom class or two). One of my high school sons even dissected a frog at home for his biology class (I made him do it out on the deck). I was even able to include some “still time.” Every afternoon I took the mile or so walk to our parish daily to check in with Jesus. Some of my children joined me.

School (actually going to school) started up in the fall for my children and has continued throughout the winter. Mass is once again celebrated publicly in my parish, although many parishioners continue to participate virtually. We’re getting out of the house more often. And I still steal away to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.

I also still find time to worry. It usually hits me when I'm all alone at home and seated at the desk in my office. Although the Blessed Sacrament is not in front of me, there are times when I remember to glance up and read: Be Still. And Know that I am God.

I think I’m learning to be still. And, yes, I know.