Being still is a skill

*** apologies to the guys – there’s reference to women’s health issues in here – but you may learn a thing or two that might help you understand the ladies in your life and it’s not the main point of the post so don’t be too put off 😉 ***

A few weeks ago I had the dubious pleasure of a phone consultation with a specialist ‘women’s health physio’. Chemotherapy has played havoc with my bladder and two large babies in close succession have left my pelvic floor not quite up to the job!

I call the conversation a pleasure because I recognise that in a world where many many people are struggling to get their basic healthcare needs met I’m privileged to be receiving specialist help on the NHS to help me with a leaky bladder. In fact post chemo and before I had the kids a GP told me that all women suffer with urinary incontinence and I should live with it… But I’m aiming to not live with it and more helpful clinicians are doing there best to fix me.

I call it a dubious pleasure because the specialist physio was somewhat brutal in her delivery of some very sound advice – I confess she made me cry and she could be a little more empathetic and a tad more encouraging if she wants her patients to take care on board the changes to their lives she is advising.

But amidst what felt like a really harsh dressing down there was a surprise – she asked me I was particularly stressed. I said I didn’t feel I was; I was furloughed from work but we’re financially okay and we live in a beautiful place. I commented that everyone is a bit stressed with the pandemic and lockdown and of course I have two little boys and at once she pounced and ‘prescribed’ relaxation exercises because mental stress causes physical stress including to your pelvic floor.

A short time later an online friend of mine called Joanna Hargreaves posted this and it resonated powerfully:

The physio and Jo’s words helped me to realise how much tension I was holding in my body. Without realising it even just the busyness of ordinary day to day life with two little people to look after can take its toll. I feel like it shouldn’t because my life is pretty good really and so many people are under ‘real stress’. However the reality is the juggling act of parenting from 5am to 8pm, sometimes with broken sleep is a tough gig; it might be an incredibly rewarding job but it is mentally, physically and emotionally demanding.

Even if you’re not a parent you will probably have your own mental list that you are juggling day in and day out. You may be ‘parenting’ your parents, or in a job where you are constantly working more hours than you’re paid for. You may be dealing with a difficult medical condition or supporting someone you love who is unwell. You may be in a job where lots of people want your attention and time and you’re constantly trying to prioritise without offending anyone or maybe you don’t have paid work and desperately need it, spending hours each day trying to navigate the jobs market and benefits system. If you don’t take care that load can impact your health mentally and physically.

At church on Sunday the preach by Simon Benham was about the concept of Sabbath. God intends us to live lives with rhythms of rest and recuperation built in. It requires intentionally building in time to stop, relax and reflect; to give ourselves the mental space to connect with God and with those around us and even just find ourselves again.

I don’t know about you though – I hadn’t realised how hard I find it to be still and rest. The other week we had the joy of visiting our friends church in Reigate. Their teenage daughters took our boys off our hands and we got to sit through a full church service without little people needing our attention for the first time in over three years.

And it was actually really hard…

We’re just so unused to just being still. Even if we’re at home watching TV after the boys are in bed we normally pause several times to make a cuppa, or put the chickens to bed, or get into our pjs. Or I’m looking at my phone, compiling a food shop order or trying to find cheap clothes for the boys online.

Once again Jo Hargreaves in a timely fashion put her finger on the spot.

It’s not that you can’t spend time with God in the busyness. Thankfully quite the opposite – I can chat away to him on and off all day long. But you know what it’s like – if you really want a quality relationship with someone you need to give them your time and focus. The reality is my time with God is mostly spent while also cooking, or showering, or sorting washing and often frequently interrupted by small people. God rarely gets my undivided attention. He is very gracious and understanding about that but still it’s not an ideal way to treat the love of your life is it??

Apart from the fact God simply deserves my full attention I’m also not doing myself any favours in not giving this relationship the quality time it requires. Simon Benham pointed out on last Sunday that our ultimate Sabbath rest is found in Jesus:

But for Jesus’s offer to make a difference – we have to make the intentional decision to take it up – to come to Him, to spend quality time with Him and let Him lift those heavy burdens off us and give us the rest we so need.

The other day I was listening to the Real Conversations podcast by Catrina Benham where she was talking to Shari Barratt and they were talking about The Couch to 5K running programs and how it really works. In an incremental approach it turns someone over nine weeks who can barely run 100 metres into a runner. They briefly discussed what it could teach them about other things in life.

It got me thinking that I might be able to take the same approach to regaining the skill of being still with God. Instead of trying to be still for a lengthy period of time and either falling asleep or getting distracted by things that need doing let’s take it incrementally. A couple of times this week I’ve sat down and just tried to be intentionally still with God for just five minutes. And I’m going to try and do that every day and gradually extend that time out, carving out the space in the busyness to make it happen. Give me a few weeks and I’ll try and report back to let you know the results.

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