“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,above politics, above everything.” (Psalm 46:10)
The Latin version of this verse (I’m reliably informed) translates literally as “Relax and take a holiday!” There’s so much going on all the time. It’s good, as they say, to “get away from it all.” The Message takes it even further here: “Step out of the traffic!” Unless you do this, that is to say, you’re liable to be overwhelmed by the sheer flow of “stuff” heading your way! There is traffic flowing through your eyes, your heart, your mind and every sense is alive and alert to a million impressions. It can be exhausting to sort it all out. So, frankly, it can be dangerous not to “be still ”and find a place “above politics, above everything.”
But how do you do it?
It starts with a decision to change your pace. Alexandra Potter put it well in The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: “And so, taking the long way home through the market I slow my pace down. It doesn’t come naturally. My legs are programmed to trot briskly and my arms to pump up and down like pistons, but I force myself to stroll past the stalls and pavement cafes. To enjoy just being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere. Inhaling deep lungfuls of air, instead of my usual shallow breaths. I take a moment to just stop and look around me. And smile to myself. For the first time in a long time, I can, quite literally, smell the coffee.”
But notice that “it doesn’t come naturally.” I have to make the decision “to enjoy just being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere.” And when you stop, and look about, then something remarkable happens: the traffic stops. Not for nothing is the time you spend with God in prayer often called a “quiet time.” That is to say, it takes both time and quiet to grow roots to your soul and to think things over. It takes time to develop any relationship that is worthwhile.
That’s what the Psalmist is referring to here. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” First the decision to step back, then the invitation to ponder deeply. It creates something amazing, which Albert Camus referred to (in a wonderful phrase) as “an invincible summer.” Here’s the bit:
“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”