Be Still

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Jill Dixon

I turned 40 this year.  I know it’s not written anywhere, but I just kind of thought that once you hit 40, you KNOW things. You are more spiritual, more discerning….those kinds of things. All I noticed was that my body started not working, but I attributed that to getting older and having a stressful summer.

I am a teacher. I love teaching, it’s one of those things I just know. I wake up every morning happy to go to work. Even though I didn’t feel good, I enjoyed getting my room ready for my second graders and I even taught the first two days of school. When I could hardly stand up at the end of the second day and Rich said he would meet me at Urgent Care, you would think that it would hit me –“Slow down”– but that didn’t happen. I ended up in the hospital and spent my waking moments reminding every doctor who came in my room that I needed to get better because I needed to teach my second graders. In my mind, this was an emergency.

When I got out of the hospital, I was so weak I couldn’t walk to the end of the block, but that was ok, because I was going back to teaching. And God was whispering, “be still” and “I am enough” and “trust Me”, but I couldn’t hear Him because I was too busy getting better.

Eventually I did go back to school (with the help of some really high powered drugs), and I taught.  Some weeks it was four days, some weeks it was only one, but I taught. And God continued to talk to me, but it was a one-sided conversation. I didn’t have time to listen; I was trying to catch up from all that I had missed those first weeks of school. I was trying to be the best teacher I could be. And then on Monday, October 25th I knew in the deepest part of my heart, as I was taking pain meds in the middle of the day, I couldn’t go on. I just couldn’t. 

I left school that day and I started weeping, and I wasn’t sad, I was mad. What in the world was going on? Didn’t God know those kids needed me? Didn’t He know I had a whole lot of people praying for my healing? Didn’t He want to heal me? I reluctantly began a two-month medical leave the following Monday, November 1s..  I was sure I would be back in January. So I spent November going to appointments and continuing to eat a special diet and trying so hard to keep control of the situation. And God continued to talk to me, and I would read my Bible but I didn’t really absorb what I was reading because I was still so confused. Why was I at home? What good could I possibly be at home? Then, on December 23rd I met with my doctor, and he said, you aren’t well enough to go back, your meds are all over the place, your symptoms are all over the place, you are underweight, you will need to talk to your principal about extending your leave. I was devastated.  How could this be happening?

It wasn’t until the middle of January that I realized that what I was doing –trying to control everything– wasn’t really working. In complete frustration I said, “Ok, fine, I will be still, I will trust you, it’s all I can do anyhow.”  And God met me there, and I felt peace.  Peace that I had not felt before. And I started asking God each morning after I had driven the kids to school, ok, what do you want me to do today? And some days He said, nothing. Just be. Be still and know that I am God. Wow, be still. That was not something I was accustomed to doing. I thought God wanted action. He wanted me doing things for His kingdom. And here He was telling me to be still. And that was hard, because I am an extrovert and I find my worth in DOING things, especially for others. So to “just be”– this was counterintuitive.

I continued to read my Bible, but this time, instead of reading it to check it off my list of things I had to do, I found myself looking forward to that time each morning with God, and I found that God was meeting me there, in that quiet place, and He was filling me up.  With Himself.  Yet I still thought, this is good, but when I get back to the classroom, that will be the best.

We saw a specialist at Cedars-Sinai at the end of January.  He not only concurred with everything my doctor in town said; he actually thought I was in a more severe situation, requiring more drastic therapy. And this felt like another emergency. And, again, I forgot what I had been learning about being still, and trusting. I asked the doctor how long it might take for these two new medications to kick in and he said four weeks, more likely twelve. And I thought, twelve weeks, no Lord, not that. Please not that. I had just received a letter from my class saying that they missed me and that they hoped I would come back before they went to third grade. And I remember thinking, “well, of course I will be back before then.” But now I am not so sure.

I have started taking the two new medications, and I understand better what the specialist meant. I am completely exhausted, I feel sick most mornings and while it feels like an emergency situation, I am reminded of something I read recently.  I am starting to realize “Life is not an emergency. Life is brief and it is fleeting but it is not an emergency. Emergencies are sudden, unexpected events –but is anything under the sun unexpected to God? Stay calm, enter the moment, give thanks. And I can always give thanks because an all-powerful God always has all these things –all things always under control. I breathe deep and He preaches to me, soothing the time-frenzied soul with the grace river in whisper. Life is not an emergency“(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

And that is what I am learning, and re-learning on an almost daily basis. God is good, God is here, God is with me, He knows me, He created me, He wants me to spend time with Him, and I find myself agreeing with Ann Voskamp when she said, “it’s not that I want more time; I just want enough time. I just want time to do my one life well.”