I have been thinking lately about how "me-oriented" many contemporary Christian worships songs tend to be. Since we remember what we sing, too much me-orientation in our songs is almost certainly not a good thing. If you are wondering what I am talking about, compare some of the modern songs with some of the classic hymns like "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" or "Crown Him with Many Crowns," or even better, the hymns embedded in the New Testament like Philippians 2:6-11 and/or 1 Timothy 3:16. Note that I am not suggesting that personalizing God's love for us is not a good thing--certainly the psalmists do that, and anyone who cannot grasp God's personalized love for her/him in an experiential way cannot possibly live the life of Jesus as He offers it, but extreme and overly-frequent me-orientation robs us of what worship is really all about: Adoration and praise of the One who is worthy and holy and great beyond comprehension.
I may write more about this later, but my reflection on me-orientation spurred me on to jot down a few thoughts about how inner stillness is really about living God-oriented and other-oriented lives. So here goes.
I am learning that inner stillness is absolutely essential to "Practicing the Presence of God" like Brother Lawrence describes. I have discovered that it's only when I am still and peaceful that I can tell when I have turned my face (the inner one) away from Papa. A noisy heart or soul cannot possibly know where its focus lies. Second, I have discovered that inner stillness is the only way I am able to detect whether I am living a willful life or a surrendered life of partnership with my Abba. Third, I have discovered that inner stillness is essential to my carrying on a two-sided conversation with God. Apart from a quieted and still soul, my prayer life becomes a very one-sided conversation. Stillness enables me to detect when I have stopped listening to the One who above all others has much to say. How remarkably dishonoring that is! We are in relationship with God Almighty, Maker of all things, who contains all of creation within Himself and all of time within His timelessness! How sad and profane my conversation becomes when it's all about me! And I am only able to detect the shift to me-focus in my walk with Papa when I have stilled and quieted my soul. Does this make sense? I could go on, but perhaps this is enough. Inner stillness is not about me (although it's wonderful). Rather it's about God, enabling me to live in a way that is increasingly aware of His Presence in and around me so that my life honors Him.
I think it's probably obvious how the God-focused life that inner stillness facilitates also enables us to be other-oriented. If my peace-o-meter is working correctly, I am able to hear God's heart for the other person and respond accordingly. The fruit of the Spirit become more and more a part of my life because my stillness enables me not only to draw upon Holy Spirit's guidance but also receive His power to live loving. Furthermore, inner stillness helps me hear God's intentions to bless, heal, encourage, set free, etc., others He brings across my path. How can I hear that key word that goes to the heart of another if it's "noisy inside"? I think you get the picture.
That's it for today. I close by reminding you that it is possible for any and every believer to learn how to "still and quiet" her/his soul. Don't give up! It is a lifelong journey, not a project with a clear date of completion! But you will find to your great wonder that God-focus and other-orientation grow in remarkably synchronization with your level of stillness. Try it, you (and those around you!) will like it!
Learning to quiet my soul for His honor,
Tom, one of Abba's little children