France has been someplace I've dreamt of visiting for years, and I was thrilled to learn that my first day I'd ever spend there was on Bastille Day (if you're not familiar- just think France's version of the 4th of July). When we arrived, we strolled through the cobblestone streets past stunning cathedrals. We stumbled upon local shops where I bought lavender soaps to bring home to my friends. We ate decadent macaroons that make me drool just thinking about. We walked along the port where hundreds of boats were tied up as the locals set up for the firework display that evening. The people there spoke little to no English, so we struggled through conversations when ordering lunch or purchasing rosé.
It was a wonderful day, but the most memorable part of my Bastille Day wasn’t my time on shore like I anticipated it would be. It was what happened just now on the ship before I came inside to write this blog before bed.
I won’t get to publish this post until this moment has long passed, because I’m currently sailing somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea between Marseille and Cinque Terre. I could publish it now if I really wanted to. The boat has internet. In fact, it has endless things to fill my time: wine and casinos and Broadway shows and pools. There's even Michael Kors and Kate Spade stores on the boat (because God forbid I decide I want a new purse and not have a place to buy it for an entire week). It’s honestly overwhelming that in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, a place that should feel remote, I instead find myself able to zip line, play putt-putt or watch an ice skating show. So after dinner I opted to have a drink with my dad on the deck before heading back to the balcony of my stateroom. And then, I sat outside with a glass of rosé and watched the sunset instead.
We love distractions, don’t we? Not just on cruise ships, but in every aspect of life. We watch TV shows. We follow sports teams. We text people we’re not that interested in to avoid feeling alone. We browse through our social media feed for hours, flip mindlessly through magazines, or become a slave to Netflix. The options of activities we can engage in are endless, and we choose them practically all day everyday just to remain preoccupied. We're uncomfortable sitting still without something to do. We call it unproductive or boring, but I think that really we don’t know what to do if we’re not looking at another face, or another screen.
So tonight I didn’t let my mind wander to thoughts that preoccupy me at home. I didn’t let myself scroll through all the pictures I’d taken so far (I left my phone inside altogether to avoid the temptation). I didn’t let myself try to plan my future or reminisce about my past. I just watched the waves dance and seagulls fly alongside our boat while the sun disappeared over the south of France. I was still.
Why is this so hard for us to do? Why is it so rare? I for one, know that when I’m still God starts to reveal the things he wants me to change. He shines a light on the stuff that he wants me to do that sounds really scary. The stuff that I alone don’t know how to do. The stuff that requires me to surrender completely and depend on him.
It’s easy to run from these feelings by staying distracted. Because staring them in the eyes is scary. Actually, when you start to notice that God is moving you in significant ways, it's pretty terrifying. As someone who’s had her fair share of disruption already this year, more movement and change isn’t exactly what I would ask for. While there has been incredible beauty that’s been born out of the discomfort I’ve experienced, I’d be lying if I claimed that because of it I now suddenly welcome all change. That I’m totally okay with continuing to leave what’s familiar, or what I love, or what I know to embrace the unknown and follow where God is leading me.
No. Instead, I shamefully find myself still clinging on to the bits and pieces of the life I saw myself living. I try to pretend that it only has to be a little different, not a completely new thing. I barter with God the way I did with the Spanish vendors selling fans on the streets of Barcelona, hoping to land on a deal that's as close to what I think I want as possible.
"Okay fine God." I tell him "I’ve wrapped my head around this curve ball I've been thrown, but that doesn’t mean I have to change EVERYTHING about my plans, right? Can’t l keep SOME of my security blankets? Can’t SOMETHING work out the way I had it all planned? Does the “perfect” life I saw myself living really have to be a completely different life altogether?"
This is what happens when I’m still. These are the questions that surface- the fears that arise. And I realize that the answers I find usually aren't the easy ones that I hope for. When I’m distracted, it’s easy to avoid. It's easy to pretend I didn't hear. But when I'm still, it all comes bubbling up. And God reveals the stuff that scares me. The possibilities that require a ton of uncertainty and room for failure before there's any hope of a happy ending.
But I wouldn't trade tonight for all the lovely distractions in the world. Sure, I love watching The Bachelorette with my girlfriends or scrolling through my Instagram feed countless times a day (you do it too- don't lie). But being still is when the good stuff happens. It's when I find myself weeping in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea because I'm afraid and full of hope and excited and unsure all at the same time. It's when I realize how things really are and what they're capable of being. Being still allows me to hear who God is calling me to become and what he's calling me to do with my life.
So ignore the text. Skip just one episode. Respond to the email tomorrow. But whatever you do, don't miss the chance to be present. To be in this moment where you are right now. Not stuck in yesterday. Not racing ahead into tomorrow. And not escaping to some fantasy that doesn't even exist. Be here. Be still. And be willing to listen to what God has to say. Because even if it's scary, I promise you want to hear it.