It’s the phrase I doodle on my placemat at restaurants, it’s what I write over and again in my journal, and it dangles around my neck as a constant reminder. I’ll never forget it’s beginning.
February 2018, Chiang Rai, Thailand: We meandered through the market, the smells and sights drawing attention wherever we turned. Amanda stepped into a stall while I was momentarily distracted by a rack of pencil drawings. Hmong, Akha and Lahu children were sketched in traditional dress. How adorable.
I turned to see Amanda gesturing to me excitedly.
“These are customizable necklaces.” She pointed to tiny gold plates attached to simple black strands. “I’m getting my word of the year stamped on it.” she picked up one. “They are also two for 100 baht so we can each get one for 50 baht if we split the cost.”
I raised my eyebrows. That was a pretty good price for customizable necklaces. Then came my decision-making crisis. I couldn’t think of one thing to stamp on it.
“What’s your word?” I asked Amanda, hoping to stir my embers of creativity.
“Venture.” She stated, walking into the shop again, towards the counter.
“I wanted to step out of my comfort zone this year, to fight fear and do things I wouldn’t usually do.” she answered.
That sounded really good. Super meaningful. Exactly the type of thing that should be stamped on a necklace. The perfection of her decision completely eclipsed any word that popped into my head.
What was God teaching me most this year? Humility? Simplicity? I’m the type of person who can think of a million things when it doesn’t matter but when it does, my mind goes completely blank. I stood watching her hand the necklace to the shopkeeper, along with the neat row of letters penciled on a scrap of paper. Venture.
I had ventured. Farther than I ever thought possible. What are you teaching me, Lord? What is next?
In my mind a verse came clearly.
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.Psalm 46:10
Be still. This verse had been my mainstay the entire year. Don’t be anxious that the kids won’t understand the Gospel when you teach it, don’t worry that when you leave, they will feel abandoned. Don’t worry about what will happen after you return home.
I penciled it onto my scrap of paper and handed it over as well.
“Be still?” Amanda looked at me.
I nodded. I quoted the verse to her, then added. “It is my promise that God will be glorified here among these kids, no matter how I fail.”
Oh, and I failed. A month later that necklace clinked against the stones of a dirt road as I prayed on my face for the child whose life had ebbed away beside me. From the moment I put it around my neck, children grabbed it, kissed it, bit it, and tried to read it as I hugged them and laughed. Over and again I explained what it meant to me. That it was about my God. No matter how hard it was to trust God over there, I believed that I was doing something of worth.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I sat in a cold room of a strange house, wearing a shimmering gown of gold, holding that same necklace in my hand, trying to imagine it clasped between dirty fingers of children across the globe. I had just been to a Christmas party in upstate New York and in my soul I felt a deep dissatisfaction with it all.
It follows me around and robs me of my peace and contentment. In my heart I feel very deeply that it is not enough. That I am not enough. What is my worth? Where is my value? What good am I truly doing?
I’ve been struggling to hide it. I don’t want it...
What should I be, Lord? What would you have me to do?
I watched the light from the antique lamp hit my dress. A line popped into my head suddenly.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold…”1 Peter 3:3a
What was the rest of that verse? I picked up my phone and searched for it.
“... or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”1 Peter 3:3b-4
I was spellbound. I had read this countless times but this verse was for me for this very moment. I was agonizing over my worth, never feeling like I was enough and here my anxiety could be done away with. Here was something that I could strive for. In God’s eyes, it was of great price.
Well, if it was, I wanted to know exactly what these words meant. Meek and quiet. I tapped on the Greek interlinear translation on my app and read the definition there. Meekness was described as gentle and mild. Strength under control without undue harshness.
Quiet was something I thought I already knew. The first word that leapt off the page was ‘still.’
He knew that my worst fear when I returned was that He would have me wait. Even in that bustling market God was preparing me to be still. Now, I see that stillness is of great price to God. Especially in a woman.
I am frantically trying to prove my worth while God is saying my worth is found in my peace, my patience, my depth, like a pool of still waters from which those around may draw.
So, I rose and took off my dress of gold, a little wiser, a little more humble. I was intensely aware of God’s power. Aware of a thread that ran back almost a year, that God has been weaving into my life’s story. Such patience and wisdom He has. If ever anyone asks, I may not be able to tell them of my great schemes for the future, I may just tell them the truth. I’m learning to be still.
Eliza was raised in a family of nine in the farmlands of Pennsylvania and later on the backwoods of Tennessee. Never a very good spectator, she prefers to be in the middle of things, whether that be at home or abroad. She enjoys telling a good yarn and loves using her capers to convey the goodness of God.
Thank you, I will be still and know He is God (sung by Don Moen). God bless you.
I’m quietness and confidence lies our strength. Isaiah 30:15.