In the world of wilderness rescue medicine, one phrase stands out as the starting point for any care you might need to provide.
“Don’t just do something…stand there”.
There are reasons this phrase is so important. First, the world of rescue already exists on the edge where people are in isolated places away from the comforts of normal, everyday life. That means the risk of further injury to any other person is very great. The goal is always to make no more victims. Let’s be real, when I witness an accident right in front of me on the road, adrenaline courses through my body and I immediately want to become superwoman. For some of us all reason becomes obsolete and we simply act without thinking.
Secondly, the chaos of the adrenaline can create a fog that gives you tunnel vision, fixating on the most dramatic piece of the scene, but not seeing the whole picture. In doing so, you could actually miss a deeper, more life-threatening injury because you are so fixated on the distracting bone that is protruding from the victims’ arm. The objective, then is to actually slow the chaotic adrenaline response in order to take the time to evaluate the deeper issues. Eventually, you may traction that protruding bone and splint it, but not quite yet.
I have been struck by the similarities this process has to our lives in the midst of transformation. If you are like me, then the moment your spiritual life gets hard, you are chomping at the bit to DO SOMETHING!
All of my life I have been an activist. Active in sports, active in work, active in relationships. I’m even active in how I rest. I would much rather do something, then stand there and stay in the middle of the chaos that comes when God begins to push on some of the long-term habits or patterns that have been carefully constructed to protect me. It’s far easier to want to just fix the obvious deformity and move on.
But God isn’t really in the business of quick fixes.
He’s always seeking deeper transformation for His children.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think He is willing to patiently wait on us while we busy ourselves with managing all the little distractions that arise on the surface. And He will wait until we are ready. Ready to not just do something, but to simply stand there.
I think of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 after he’s been on the run because Jezebel wants to kill him. He travels for 40 days across the desert until he finally arrives at Mount Horeb. Here he collapses, utterly defeated, in the chaos of the despair that is occurring inside and outside of him.
In this place, God doesn’t really have a lot to say. Instead, He invites Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (v. 11). God invites Elijah to stand on the side of a mountain in the middle of a raging storm, an earthquake that threatens to crumble the very foundations of his limited understanding, and a fire that intensely burns up anything that is dead in its path. That doesn’t sound like the place that I want to stand. I most definitely would want to do something and that something would be to run and hide!!
While this may seem extreme, it is the way it feels sometimes when it seems like we are standing empty, stripped bare in the chaos and confusion of what God is doing in us. Everything in us wants to search for relief and control in the temporary relational, spiritual, and physical constructs we have built.
And yet, God has invited us to simply stand there in the middle of the chaos, receiving the gift of His presence in the form of the gentle whisper.
That whisper is what our hearts have longed for and yet we can’t quite get there because we are unwilling to wait in the discomfort of our confusion, lack of understanding, and struggle. We would rather do something than simply stand there. Henri Nouwen refers to solitude as the “furnace of transformation”. He calls it this because when we are finally willing to stop doing something and simply stand there, stripped bare of all those ways we have sought to make ourselves valuable, we can’t help but be transformed.
I have recently found myself in the middle of yet another season where God has been inviting me to not just do something, but to stand here. As I struggle with fixating on that which I cannot control, He continues to invite me to stand in the silence and wait. He is giving me a new kind of beauty as my roots are growing deeper.
“Trust me,” He whispers, as He leads me further into solitude, silence, and stillness.
“You will once again offer shade to the people in your path, but right now I’m asking you to wait here in My presence.”
As I sit with Him in this place, it is unnerving and uncomfortable. I want answers, not more questions. But He is not interested in the same things I am interested in. He is unveiling something deeper and truer than I can see in the chaos of my tunnel vision.
When I am willing to wait in that space, as painful as it may be, He addresses the deepest needs of my soul. And once the deeper soul issues are addressed, just like any good wilderness rescue professional, he packages the distracting injuries by providing some very practical assurance and guidance. He did this for Elijah too. After standing there in God’s presence, unable to do anything to change his circumstances, God gave Elijah very practical instructions for how he needed to proceed in leadership and life by sharing the strain of leadership with another, Elisha.
I am reminded of 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Don’t just do something…stand there.