I encountered statio before I knew what it meant.
During the prelude to our morning worship, a gentleman in our church – I mentioned him not long ago in a blog post on faithfulness – would stand and come to the microphone. “Welcome,” he always said. “As the prelude begins, please make the transition from getting here to being here.”
Those simple words had a profound effect on the congregation. Instead of the whispered hello-how-are-you conversations that dominated the sanctuary, instead of the running-around and laughter and jokes and rustling and noise, everyone actually became quiet and settled in. Those words served as reminder for us to pause, gather ourselves, and remember why and for Whom we had come.
And, as I have learned, that’s exactly what statio is: a holy pause.
I encountered the term in Philip Yancey’s Reaching for the Invisible God, though it did not register with me fully until this most recent read-through. Yancey references statio as a spiritual discipline particularly useful to those who struggle with sensing God’s presence, suggesting instead that we make the effort to be more present to God and with God: to integrate God more fully into our daily life.
Statio is a practice from the monastic tradition, often referred to as the “holy pause.” Believers may practice it at its simplest by pausing to acknowledge God in moments of transition and change, rather than perpetually rushing from one thing to another. In those pauses, we might ask ourselves: “How is God present in this moment? How am I present to God in this moment?”
When you make such pauses, Yancey points out, everything has the potential to become holy work. A holy pause before you answer the phone is a reminder that whoever is on the other end is a child of God. A pause before a mundane task to ask where or how God is present is a reminder that the work, however mundane, is to His glory. A pause before a walk out in nature is a chance to see God’s handiwork in every good and loving thing.
I have always, to some degree or another, practiced statio in my day-to-day without knowing the term for it, but I have increased it recently. I am here to tell you that it’s a really wonderful intentional practice, especially if you have a hamster-wheel mind like mine that is perpetually moving, going, thinking. In situations where you are not often apt to pause and reflect – at work, when you are doing something that focuses the mind, when you are in an unpleasant or stressful situation – statio is a reminder to slow down. To let your day breathe enough for God to reveal Himself in it. To give yourself a visceral reminder that He is the priority.
You’ll be surprised how much you resist it. Fine, God is present, but I’ve got to– No, you don’t. There is nothing but an absolute emergency that would suffer from the pause of a moment. Consider God and allow Him into your day. It will change your behavior fairly immediately – you can’t be a jerk on the phone when you’ve literally just reminded yourself that a child of God is on the other end. You will freak out less over the work disaster when you remember that God is at work in it and through it. When wonderful things happen, you will remember to be thankful for Him.
Try it, just for a day, and see how much you think about God and recognize Him in everything around you. See how much you are present with Him, and He is present with you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be shocked by how little of God you have previously allowed into your day, and you will desire much more. Because the truth is, as Yancey points out, it’s not that God isn’t present in our lives. It’s that our flawed and human senses fail to see how much He is.
Pause. Invite God in.