Monday Over Coffee: "Sit"

Published March 25, 2024 by Greg Funderburk

Growing up, three little books made a great impact on me as a young Christian: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, Your God is Too Small by J.B. Phillips, and Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee. The insight packed inside these three slender volumes was profound.

Though not as well known as the Bible-translating, British radio broadcaster, J.B. Phillips, or the popular author, Oxford professor, and lay theologian, C.S Lewis, it might be said that Watchman Nee was the most consequential Christian evangelist since St. Paul. In 1922, Nee started what became known as the Local Church Movement in China. Tirelessly organizing Bible conferences and informal organizational meetings, Nee trained thousands of devoted Bible students and church volunteers to fan out across the countryside of the world’s largest and most populous nation to teach the Gospel to the Chinese people at a crucial moment.

Following the 1949 Communist Revolution in his country, however, Nee was—just as Paul had been—persecuted and imprisoned for his faith. Nee spent the last two decades of his life in jail where, also like Paul, he became a prolific writer while unjustly held by an oppressive government. While incarcerated, one of his writing projects focused on the subject of Paul’s own letter to the Ephesian church. He called the book Sit, Walk, Stand.

In Sit, Walk, Stand, Nee wrote that young Christians are unlikely to be able to stand up to evil, face down injustice or even overcome their own sinful nature unless they first walk the path of discipleship with Christ. Further, Nee argues such a would-be disciple will never gather up the strength to walk the path Jesus walked until he or she first simply sits at Christ’s feet in devotion and submission. Thus, he posited, we must first sit, before we walk, and we must walk, before we can stand. In one memorable passage of the book explaining the premise, Nee wrote that Christianity does not begin with a big DO on our part, but rather with a big DONE on God’s part. We’re saved, he goes on, not by doing anything, or earning anything on our own, but by simply reposing our belief and trust in God’s love and God’s grace.

A beautiful image of this first step—the sitting part—is captured in the story of Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha.

…Jesus entered a certain village and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him as a guest in her home, and she had a sister called Mary. And Mary, having seated herself beside the Lord’s feet, was listening to His word. Martha though was going around in circles, over-occupied with preparing the meal. Bursting in upon Jesus, Martha assumed a stance over Him, saying, “Lord, is it not a concern to you that my sister has let me down to be preparing the meal alone?…And answering, Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you’re worried and excited about many things, but of few things there is need, or of one. Mary has chosen out for herself the good portion, which is of such a nature that it shall not hastily be snatched away from her.
(Luke 10:38-42, Wuest’s Expanded Greek Translation)

Notice how like a gifted playwright, Luke describes the physical posture of the two sisters. Martha is moving, going in circles, then assumes a stance over Jesus, whereas Mary takes up a posture of stillness, under the teachings of Jesus, at His feet.

How infrequently do we in silence and receptivity, in a posture of submission and under God’s direction, just simply sit still and breathe, not seeking anything, not saying anything, not doing anything, just sitting still before God?

We have a distinct bias toward motion, often mistaking movement with progress and busy-ness with gaining ground. Perhaps if we just stopped careening ever-forward, ever-downhill, over-occupied, over-wrought, over-scheduled, over-teched, and forever out over our skis, we just might hear God whispering to us, “Sit at My feet a moment. Sit still. Listen. I will re-center your soul within you.”

Whether it’s in prayer, in quiet meditation, or in worship on the Sabbath, God has put on offer to us, as Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, a “palace of time,” which we’re constantly being summoned into but which requires that we lay down our arms, leaving the bustle and the yoke of toil, and just stop wrestling with the world.

If you’re anxious, disoriented, dislocated, lost—if you need to be restored, renovated, realigned, or revived—then put down what you are doing and stop. Breathe. And sit. Sit in stillness in the presence of God.

God—May I simply sit with You today. Amen.