I was all about being still. I could relax with the best of them. As a teenager there was an indentation of my body permanently pressed into our couch. When my wife and I first got married, I joked about how going on vacation with her family was like boot camp, because of the active interests they pursued. As I reflect on the passage, “Be still and know that I am God” I get a profound sense that “chilling out” and relaxing by the pool is not exactly what God had in mind.
I have found that although stilling my body is not hard for me, stilling my mind is quite difficult. I would characterize myself as an over-analyzer. My body can be still, while my mind is racing a mile a minute. I have early memories of long sleepless nights analyzing the minutest details of interactions between teachers, friends, and family. I analyze the slightest pitch change in my wife’s voice. I attempt to decipher the meaning of and future repercussions of my children’s smallest behaviors. In short, there are moments when I can drive myself crazy with the thoughts that move through my mind.
Several years ago, I was blessed to attend summer camp with a group of high school students. The speaker that week focused on several spiritual practices for deepening relationship with Christ. The one practice that stuck with me was the Jesus prayer. The prayer comes out of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and involves repeating the phrase “Lord, Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Scripturally the prayer has its roots in Luke 18:13 “but the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I was taught to inhale on, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and to exhale on, “have mercy on me a sinner.”
For a person who requires more work on stillness of mind than body this prayer has been a great help. When I find myself ruminating over the days activities unable to sleep, I will repeat this prayer as a way to slow my mind and focus on Christ. When I am overwhelmed by my work as a therapist, this prayer helps me to remember my purpose and be reminded that Jesus is the true healer of souls.
I love this prayer because through it I experience moments of stillness. I am reminded again and again, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I am a sinner. I inhale the name of Jesus, and exhale the character of man. Now that is a breath of fresh air!