More than once this year, people have quoted Psalm 46:10 in conversations reflecting on 2020. This week, God has reminded me of it in two ways.
First, by this excerpt from a book I’m reading, Talking to High Monks in the Snow:
Once, I listened to a biologist. She had been awarded a grant supporting field study in the Kalahari Desert. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Over vast distances, in a rented Land Rover, she scurried here and there. She marked sites. She took readings. She made plans. Always rushing to the momentous occasion, triggered by the distant rains, when the animals she studied would appear.
One day, the Land Rover overheated. In order to reach water and safety a strategy was devised. The vehicle could travel a few kilometers each day. Then the engine required rest to cool down. The result was that scientist was forced to spend many hours in remote locations where she had no business being. It nearly drove her mad.
There she was, with so much urgent busyness to be doing, in a place where nothing could be done. Loathing to waste time she transcribed her notes. Then she reread her field manuals. She stared impatiently across the vast wilderness, willing the coming of the rains, and the animals, or at least of a spare and sprightly jeep. “Here I am in the Kalahari,” she fumed, “having worked all my life to fulfill a girlhood dream. Here I am and everything has been thwarted.”
Then as the hours turn to days, it dawned on her. She was in the Kalahari with eyes and ears and time on her hands. This was her girlhood dream. The biologist took a deep breath and looked around. Some insects labored in the sands. She watched them for a while and her anxious pulse rate slowed.
And as the days stretched to a week, she noticed the subtle shifts in the scent of the desert during the day. She noticed that at a certain hour, if certain conditions prevailed-like 32 distinctive signs accompanying an auspicious horoscope-then small iguanas would appear.
Over time, her drive to achieve scientific notoriety eroded, and her sense of wonder emerged. In the desert the biologist found her motto. It is one that she carries to this day.
“Don’t just do something,” the scientist said to me, “sit there.”
Second, by this statement from a friend who’s facing COVID:
“It has been a remarkable feeling of God being shoulder to shoulder with me this week.”