“All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms”—Blaise Pascal
“Be still and know that I am God” —Psalm 46:10
A fishing–friend of mine recently passed on a slim volume entitled, Fishin’ Jimmy. It was written in 1889 by New Englander Anne Trumbull Slosson.
Fishin’ Jimmy is about a man who lived in Franconia, that little valley in New Hampshire made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Great Stone Face. (Unfortunately, in 2003 the face crumbled into history.)
Fishin’ Jimmy was an angler who fly–fished the streams and ponds of that region for a half–century or more. I was intrigued by the story because some years ago Carolyn and I camped in Franconia Notch and I fished those very streams.
Fishin’ Jimmy was a genial, kindly, accessible man, a lover of men and women, boys and girls, a friend of publicans and sinners. He was simple man with a deep faith who walked with God in quietness and confidence.
One thing troubled Jimmy, however. He wanted to become a “fisher of men.” That was what the Great Teacher had promised those first fishermen who left their boats to follow him.
“I allers try to think that ‘t was me in that boat when he come along.” Jimmy muses. “I’d make b’l’eve that it was out on Streeter’s Pond, an’ I was settin’ in the boat, fixin’ my lan’in’ net, when I see him on the shore. I think mebbe I’m that James—for that’s my given name, ye know, though they allers call me Jimmy—an’ then I hear him callin’ me’, ‘James, James.’ I can hear him jest plain sometimes, when the wind’s blowin’ in the trees, an’ I jest ache to up an’ foller him. But says he, ‘I’ll make ye a fisher o’men,’ an’ he aint done it. I’m waitin’; mebbe he’ll larn me some day.”
What Fishin’ Jimmy did not know is that the Great Teacher had “larned” him. Jimmy had walked a long time with Jesus and his ways had rubbed off on him. Fishin’ Jimmy had become a center of peace, a man who touched lives profoundly wherever he went, who left behind the unforgettable fragrance of Christ.
David, Israel’s poet, speaks of those like Jimmy who “live quietly” and yet deeply (Psalms 35:20). In every age God has his women and men who have withdrawn from life’s ambitions and jealousies and have entered into the secret of a life that is hidden in God.
This doesn’t mean that these folks escape life’s dangers and dilemmas, but it does mean they have the ability to live with tranquility in the midst of them. Though much trouble may remain, confusion, apprehension, instability and despair have begun to dwindle away. These are the “quiet ones” who show poise under pressure, who are unshaken by life’s alarms and who radiate wisdom and peace wherever they go.
Ordinary folks, unfamiliar with the hidden depths of God, necessarily live busy, fussy, care–ridden lives. They’re always fretful, always restless, always looking for that illusive “something more.”
But those who have learned to turn their energies toward knowing and loving God (and being loved by him) can be calm in the hustle and bustle of the marketplace as well as the tedium and weariness of the commonplace, quiet in the midst of life’s homeliest duties and demands.
F. B. Meyer says that most of us are like folks living in a one–room house located too close to the street. There’s no way to get away from the noise and commotion outside. But we can build a little sound–proof room within and make it our dwelling place—a secret chamber in which we ponder God’s word and talk things over with him. It’s in that quiet place that we learn peace and bring that peace out to others.
George MacDonald, that wise, old Scot, put it this way: “There is a chamber—a chamber in God himself which none can enter but the one, the individual, the particular person. Out of which chamber that man has to bring revelation and strength for his brethren. This is that for which he was made—to reveal the secret things of the Father.”
We’re distracted because we’ve lost that orientation, but we can learn to be quiet. We can take our anxious worry and nervous energy to Jesus. When people disappoint us we can confide in him. When storms sweep over us we can hide in his presence. When people jostle one another and jockey for position, when they compete for fame and fortune and their passions begin to stir us we can run to that chamber, shut the door and quiet our hearts again. We can be calm and strong…
Firm in the right; mild to the wrong;
Our heart, in every raging throng
A chamber shut for prayer and song.