What an Empty Coffee Shop Taught Me about Stillness


My favorite local coffee shop is usually full of sounds that overlap into a beautiful, complex white noise. Business meetings, old friends catching up, and the busy mama with her three small kids hoping to find a little comfort in her favorite mocha all add their voices to the mix over the soundtrack of soothing soft rock and folk music.

But today, the whole place is empty and still. Incredibly still.

This strikes me today because just a few months ago, the stillness would have driven me crazy.

Stillness and I have not been on the best of terms recently. Stillness has a sneaky way of measuring the health of my soul in a way that I had trained myself to avoid with noise. Stillness strips away all the protection and distraction I find in busyness and leaves me with my heart wide open and vulnerable.

Recently, that’s been an incredibly hard and uncomfortable place for me to be. I resented stillness and avoided it like the plague. I viewed stillness as a prison cell and noise was the only key I had to escape. I wanted to escape my mind, my emotions, my fears and my failures.

I didn’t know that the noise would drown out everything else that made me feel alive.

By escaping the prison of my mind with noise, I had actually backed myself into a new prison cell where I had no joy, felt no love, and never knew peace. I was so empty and exhausted.

Today in the stillness of this empty coffee shop, I’m faced with a decision. I could continue to numb my heart with senseless noise, or I can rest in the stillness and invite life back into my soul. I can continue to view stillness as the enemy, or I can allow stillness to be an ally.

You see, friend, stillness has the power to be a beautiful thing.

Yes, the stillness forced me to deal with my fears and emotions and failures. But eventually, the stillness reintroduced life into my empty heart. Stillness is where I can reflect on the joy I have in life and the satisfaction I find in being a friend, a sibling and a daughter. Stillness is a catalyst for peace and reflection that heals deep wounds in my soul. Most importantly, stillness is where I hear the voice of my Savior kindly whisper to my soul again. Stillness is where God’s Word comes alive and encourages my heart.

The words “Be still and know I am God” (from Psalms 46:10) have become more than a convenient Christian quip to me. I understand now that God never meant our souls to be in distress and self-medicated with noise. He meant for our souls to be at rest so that we could seek Him and find Him and live our lives with incredible joy.

Training my soul to sit in silence is hard. I feel like I’m trying to persuade a lively toddler to sit still in church or finish their vegetables.

Slowly, I begin to feel safe in silence again. I feel safe with myself again.

Becoming comfortable with stillness is a journey, and I still have a long way to go. Sometimes the quiet is overwhelming and I run back to the noise that I have found so comforting. But slowly, I am learning to see the beauty in stillness again. I am learning to make space for my emotions and embrace whatever the stillness brings.

Stillness is where I feel alive.

I think I’m ready to start living again.

-Alathia

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