I take walks, and the wind is the January kind. It makes the leaves chatter high in the trees and rattles the empty trash cans at the end of each driveway. The earth is brown, save for refrozen snow lining the ditches and furrows. Now is the only time in the year when I can make out the red barn in valley, through the naked trees at the end of Edgewood. On the far hillside, black cows huddle and lie down. I can see my breath when I let it out.
I used to dread the slow, beautiful death of summer— the way things closed up and quieted. But I’ve changed as I’ve aged.
I remember walking the docks of a marina in October, on our family’s trip down south. We visit the marina whenever we’re there— usually in spring— but things were different this time of year. The boats were all bobbing in the harbor, the only sound lake water lapping their sides. There was a single boat out on the water— a fishing one, with a dad, son, and granddad casting out of it. The gift shop was empty.
The thought of a world gone quiet came to me just then, and I realized I wouldn’t mind the great slumber of winter so much, when the boats all came back to harbor, when the trees took off their summer clothes, when I could stand in a leafless forest, watching the breath come out of me and linger.
I wouldn’t mind a Selah.
I’ve been listening to Kristyn Getty read the Psalms as I walk, and I’ve noticed the way she takes a breath at each Selah. It’s likely a musical term, maybe of extolment or praise, and more likely signifying a pause or rest to reflect on what was just sung.[i]
All I know is it sounds like a breath.
It is, after all, a word breathed out by God himself so that you and I may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-16). But to be ready for work— for the springtime that’s coming— we’ve first got to pause and fill our lungs with what God has said. We’ve got to rest in it, the way the trees on Edgewood are resting from their budding and leafing out; the way all creation is resting in its dens and holes and bare fields.
And once in the year, winter offers us one, deep, abiding Selah.
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD:
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
…You are the God who works wonders;
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
~ Psalm 77: 11-15
[i] Jason Soroski, “What Does Selah Mean in the Bible and Why Is It Important?” Crosswalk.com (2018, Oct 10), https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-does-selah-mean.html