This is my last week looking at those fun, old phrases that are passed down from generation to generation. It's been interesting to learn the background of these things we hear ourselves saying from time to time. Have you ever heard someone say “Be still my heart”?
This phrase was first used by author John Dryden. Back then, he said “my beating heart.” It was then used frequently over the course of many years by romantic poets and novelists. In 1705, the entire phrase “be still, my beating heart” was used by author William Mountfort. Then in 1878, playwrights Gilbert and Sullivan were the first to say it in a sarcastic way. (Of course they were.) Over the years the phrase has been reduced to “be still my heart.”
Today, I often hear it from parents on social media when their kid does something adorable or special. It’s a cute phrase, and it makes me wonder what moves my heart.
I’ve always had strong emotions. My family members will sometimes be recommending a show or movie to someone and then they’ll look at me and say, “Well, this isn’t really for you because you probably can’t handle it.” They’re not wrong. I’m not the person asked to speak at a funeral, and I know family members probably have to draw straws to tell me upsetting news.
During covid, something weird happened. For the first time in my life, I found my emotions were numb. I’m sure it was caused by isolation and too much bad news to process, but I didn’t have strong feelings about anything. Because I’m a cryer and I don’t exactly know when the tears will come, you’d think this dry spell would be a welcomed change, but actually, I found it unsettling. Thankfully, over time, my emotions came back and now I’m the teary eyed mess I was before.
Having lost my emotions for a time, I relish those moments that move me to tears. Those moments where I say, “Be still my heart”.
For no other reason except that they start with the same two words, this phrase always reminds me of “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The church I went to as a small child had these words inscribed over the entrance of the sanctuary. When I was really little, I’m sure my mom prayed we’d be still when it was time to be quiet in the sanctuary. (Spoiler. I wasn’t always quiet in there.) As an adult I know that in order to experience God, I need to be still -to put the things that distract me aside in order to have a genuine encounter with Him.
But what about the other “be still my heart” moments? How many of those moments have I missed because I was distracted by something that’s not even important. I remember a time when I was scrolling facebook looking at pictures of someone else’s kids I don’t even really know. Meanwhile my girls were vying for my attention in the same room. They had made up a dance and wanted me to see it. (In my defense, there have been a lot of dances in our days.) But still. I was missing it.
So, I guess those “be still my heart” moments have to start with actually being still. Removing silly distractions in order to experience what’s more important.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I know lots of moms (myself included) work from home. I don’t mean that your kids need to have 100% of your attention at all times. You need to take time to get things done that are important. I’m really talking about unnecessary distractions that can get in the way of those moments.
“Be still my heart” moments are all around us. They’re in nature. They’re in prayer and worship. They may happen while reading or watching something. They may be something your kids or grandkids say. Or a special date night. God gave us emotions so that we can feel deeply when we are presented with something beautiful. But it starts with being still. Quiet your heart and mind to experience these things. If not, you’ll miss them. I’m convinced my daughter was a newborn yesterday, but somehow, she’s in high school now. Time flies by so quickly. I don’t want to miss one moment that makes me say, “Be still my heart.” I don’t want you to miss any either.