Selah: The Art of Pause

God has always used art and the creative process to teach me.  In college, I took a bunch of ceramics classes.  I spent hours hand-building these large bulbous bowls with clay coils.

I had to wait for the long strands to be the right consistency to connect them to the previous coil.  If I used them too early, the pot wouldn't take shape and would fall in on itself.  If I waited too long, the coils would become brittle and crumble.

Then, came the scoring between the coil pieces so they would be sure to stay together leaving no possibility of an air pocket which would cause an unwanted explosion in the kiln.  After all of that, I would burnish the pot with a back of a spoon, or a smooth stone to get the right finish I wanted. 

Then, the firing process.

The pot is fired once.

Then glazed.

Then fired in the kiln again.

At the end of it all, we see the product of an arduous process and get to delight in its beauty and functionality.  The process of a single piece of pottery isn't fast, or tidy, or easy.  It's messy work with many considerations.

Over the past few months the Lord has been gently teaching me a few things.  He put this word in my thoughts:  


Selah is found 74 times in the Bible.  71 times in 39 of the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. The true meaning of the word is unknown.  Speculation provides us with several interpretations including, but not limited to: a musical interlude, pause, and something similar to amen.  Most of the time we find Selah at the end of a verse.  However, there are several instances where it's not found at the end.  Here's an example:

He will send from heaven and save me;
    He will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
Psalm 57:3

This particular placement of Selah, interests me.  It's in the middle of the verse-almost like an interruption for the reader. 

Right now, you're in a moment in the process of a work being done in your life.  Maybe you feel like you're inching your way with your head down and your eyes focused on your failed attempts.  Things aren't turning out like you planned in your mind.  At all.

Or perhaps, you're in a full-on sprint, going way too fast, never stopping, in fear that if you do stop you may never begin again. You're skipping steps hoping to get to the finished piece quicker, just to be done.

Either way, your focus is on your own strength or lack of it.

If that's you, I want to encourage you to pause, reflect, and give thanks.

Take a breather.  God's got you. 

Remember, this work that's being done in your life-it's a process and it isn't fast, or tidy, or easy.  It's messy work with many considerations. 

The process is just as important as the finished product.  It's in the process that we are stretched and challenged to grow and produce beauty.  It's where we fine-tune the skills God has given us.  It's where we learn about the Creator.  It's in the waiting that we continue to trust God.  He's at work even if we can't see it.

Like a Selah in the middle of a verse, sometimes we need to pause in the moment. And in that stillness we turn our eyes to God and breathe.

Nani Williams