In Praise of…. Stillness

There is an old phrase, “Take time to smell the roses”, which I’ve always assumed means trying to make occasional space in a busy life to appreciate the finer things. At the very least it should mean trying to enjoy the simpler pleasures that life has to offer.


Over the past few months this phrase has taken on a more profound meaning for me than simply finding time once in a while to enjoy what is growing in the garden. The very fact that roses smell as beautiful as they do speaks of God’s gift to us in Creation. To take time to enjoy the scent of flowers is to offer a silent prayer of thanks to a God who revels in the beauty of the natural world and who delights in our enjoyment of it. This struck me most forcefully a few weeks ago as I walked past the gardens below Holy Trinity church and the wonderful fragrance of the flowers seemed to create another world, far away from the clamour of the people rushing about, from the noise and chaos of the roads. This new world was one of stillness and wonder, which revealed the peaceful radiance of a loving God.


It dawned on me that my earlier assumption had everything the wrong way round; we should not be trying to fit in small glimpses of the simplicity and peace of God’s creation. Instead we need to have a simple, faithful and prayerful engagement with our surroundings as the foundation out of which our work and activity spring.


To do this means having our relationship with God as the primary function of our daily lives, within which we create space for work and activity. It means not finding time to squeeze in brief moments of stillness and prayer, but having stillness in the presence of God as the beginning of all we do. If our busy-ness is not underpinned by the presence of God, it has no purpose. As the Psalmist says,


       Unless the LORD builds the house,

       those who build it labour in vain.

       Unless the LORD guards the city,

       the guard keeps watch in vain.


       It is in vain that you rise up early

       and go late to rest,

       eating the bread of anxious toil;

       for He gives sleep to His beloved.

                                              (Ps. 127)


Philip Morton