“If you find yourself growing strongly attached to your cell, leave it, do not cling to it, be ruthless. Do everything possible to attain stillness and freedom from distraction, and struggle to live according to God’s will, battling against invisible enemies……Be like an astute business man; make stillness your criterion for testing the value of everything, and choose always what contributes to it.” ~Evagrios The Solitary
I was surprised as I read this portion of Evagrios’ writing about stillness. How did he know of my strong attachment to my iPhone in the fourth century?
Seriously, I do believe that there is something prophetic here with his use of the word “cell.” How many of us find any movement toward stillness during the day interrupted by the ringing of our cell phone? Of course, we justify taking the call because it is a friend or member of our family calling to tell us something of vital importance. Really, of vital importance?
This passage made me think that indeed the “invisible enemies” that Evagrios refers to are indeed astute. They understand how easily we are swayed by the comfort of friends and family. How easily our stillness and priority on He who indeed fulfills and loves us without condition can be broken by the ringtone of our phones. Don’t get me wrong, relationships with those people we love are an important part of our life and often play an important role in hearing and practicing the Word of God. Yet, how often do we substitute these temporal comforts for communion with the Word? How often do we practice this idolatry and forfeit the best for the good?
Essentially, Evagrios was talking about a spiritually motivated “media-fast” in the fourth century. The media, although different than ours, had assumed the same role as our modern media, it had become an idol in that it replaced an awareness and sense of God’s presence.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Being still means dropping everything to acknowledge the presence and power of God. Acknowledging that our sufficiency is found totally in Him. It means releasing ourselves from our own sufficiency or that sufficiency that is found in anyone or anything but God; people, music, work, activity of any sort unless it contributes to stillness in God.
That brings us to the question of what does contribute to stillness? Evagrios goes on to talk about prayer, specifically undistracted prayer. That is indeed one very important way to move toward stillness. Others might include meditation on the scriptures, silence and withdrawal from activity and people so we can focus on speaking and listening to our creator as He speaks and continues to speak to us.
Am I suggesting that we cease to cultivate our relationships with those in our community, those with whom we work, our neighbors and family? No, I am not suggesting this. However, we must test the value, as Evagrios advises us, of those relationships and the time we spend cultivating them and evaluate their impact on the most important relationship we have with our God. Indeed, He is a jealous God.