Yesterday, I visited Holy Trinity Church, where the great author CS Lewis is buried.
It took us (myself, Amanda, and Sara, two fellow students from APU) around two hours to reach the church on foot. We passed through the outskirts of Oxford, stopping to look at the houses or flowers. It was a rare, sunny morning, and the walk was peaceful and easy. We entered the churchyard by way of a wooded sidewalk off a side street in Headington. Upon passing through the church gate, the trees parted, revealing the graves and a sign that read
"Please respect the peace of this place."
We passed through the graveyard in near-silence, examining headstones and looking up at each other, wondering who would find the grave. Eventually, we googled what it looked like and found it a few feet away from where we were standing. After paying our respects and leaving a lei behind, a local member (or perhaps deacon) of the Parish invited us to spend some time in the church itself.
Entering was like walking into another world. There were no instrument cables strewn across a stage, beckoning to some loud worship set; the church was built to be opened to the public as a place to rest one's soul, and rest we did.
The silence was not oppressive, but the peace was. It was impossible to remain disquieted in that place. One felt the weight of the presence of God and the devoutness of the place. I wondered why I rarely feel that way in churches. I don't know if it was the architecture, or if it was the generations of worshipers whose praise remained somehow in the walls, but it was special. I know that such feelings are not limited to old places of worship or old buildings, but it's easier to find there. In the silence broken only by the occasional shifting of one of us upon the wooden benches, I remembered a command: "Be still."
I did as I was told, and the stillness stole into me and remained. Even after leaving, the feeling of peace and reverence remained under my skin, like the melody that plays on in my head hours after the song had ended.
Later, I realized that there was more than one place that the command "be still" was given. Of course, Jesus commands the storm to be still, but there is also a verse in Exodus that reads as follows:
"The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Exodus 14:4)
Sometimes I'm the storm. Sometimes I'm the broken fighter who just needs to sit down. But I always need to be reminded: