On Selah…

“God, listen to my cry; pay attention to my prayer! When my heart is weak, I cry out to you from the very ends of the earth. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I am because you have been my refuge, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy. Please let me live in your tent forever! Please let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings! Selah.”   Psalm 61:1 – 4

When I was on my retreat last month, I took the opportunity to go to the various masses offered each day. Well…I did not go to the 4a mass. But as I sat, stood, genuflected…I began to notice that after everything they did, there was a pause. The monks would chant a psalm and then there would be a pause before they did the next element of the worship time. There was no specific amount of time for each pause…there was just a pause. It added to the rhythm of the entire service. You were given time to reflect on everything that was done. Time to think about the Psalms that were chanted. Time to think about the scripture that was just read. Time to think about the prayer, the homily, whatever was being offered…you were given time to think and reflect.

By the end of my time at the monastery, I had gotten used to the pause. Interestingly enough, when you go the Psalms and you read through them you will find that some of them have the word “Selah” at the end of a section. The best translation we have for the word “Selah” is the word “pause.” These are holy spaces where we aren’t doing. Instead, we have been offered a moment or however long you choose to take, of silent being with God. They are important. And too often we hurry and scurry from activity to activity with no pause between.  No time to sit back and think about what we have just done and enjoy or rue, as the case may be, the things we have said or done. We just hurry on.

What if instead of moving on to the next activity in life, we paused? What if we took the time to enjoy what we just experienced? Or how we could have handled a situation better? What if we stopped for a moment and reflected on each experience and what it meant to us in that moment? I wonder if we wouldn’t appreciate life just a little more. I wonder if our happiness factor would go up. I wonder.

The problem going somewhere to just be is this: we also have to come back to reality. And reality has a tendency to slap us in the face if we aren’t careful. So, unless we make the effort to change our reality, we will just go back to the same ways we lived prior to our insights. I am making the effort to add pauses into my life…but it isn’t easy. Like most of you, I move from one thing to the next without taking the time to stop and just be. And I think that the problem with pauses is that we have to be intentional about doing them. They don’t happen naturally. But they are well worth the effort when we include them in the natural rhythm of our lives.


Pastor Beth

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