It was one of those oppressively gloomy mornings—the kind where it’s difficult to rouse yourself from sleep, with the sort of gloom where the grayness of the sky is not simply a vision to behold, but an emotion, a physical weight on the soul. I was doing what I do at 9:30 every Sunday morning: driving to church, rehearsing the words and phrases of liturgy in my head, and tapping through difficult key changes on the steering wheel.
The dreariness outside had spilled over into the congregation. People wore it on their backs like cloaks and on their faces like masks. I breathed in dreams of a blue sky and exhaled with the beginning notes rising from the piano. Each week I have the best seat in the house: Our piano faces the congregation, so I can look up and see their faces. Some are beaming with joy as they look down the row at their family; others are filled with fear for whatever the week might hold, or are stoically holding it together even though their world might be crumbling. I get to see these faces in their truest and most vulnerable expressions each week.
That day I noticed the anxious faces of those in our congregation—more than half—who serve as federal employees and are feeling the tension of the political climate. I saw the weary face of a dear friend with stage 4 cancer. I saw four empty seats in the front that should have been occupied by my husband and kids, who were instead at home recovering after an exhausting night of managing my 7-year-old diabetic son’s blood sugar. I sunk my fingers into the keys, urging the music to pour forth like that first warm breeze wafting in the smells of spring.
“Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor may serve you as our King;
and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
we'll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still.”
Still. Sometimes it feels as though this word is used in scolding or command: Be still! It pushes us to do something—or not do something—along with giving us the feeling of not quite measuring up. Many of us can do little to change our life circumstances, more often than not bustling with commitments to job, family, and church. We seem to have little control over the time-consuming stuff of life that preoccupies us. But what we can do is direct how we respond to what we’ve been given.
Maybe for now, in this time and space, we need more “still” in its adverbial form: a resolute, unwavering, unchanging state of being in our very souls. Still we bless our gracious Lord and Savior, no matter what masks our faces or clouds our hearts. Still we go through the stuff of life, meeting deadlines, doing dishes, attending school board meetings and parent-teacher conferences with gratitude in our hearts and praise on our lips. Still we rise to bless God’s holy name, whether in glorious autumn sunshine or the deepest, darkest despair of winter. Still we honor God and offer all our praise in our chaos or our stillness.
Still. No matter what.
About the Author
Katie Ritsema-Roelofs grew up in Denver, Colo., and graduated from Calvin College in 2006 with a degree in music and worship. Ordained last year as a ministry associate, she currently serves as Minister of Music and Worship for Washington, D.C., CRC. She’s also working on a master’s in religion and theological studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Brian, are expecting their first child in October.