Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Deep Breath

I feel like this blog has been hurtling along at a breathless pace for the last six months or so. So many new things in our lives to write about--new church, new house, new schools, new friends. Normally, I dislike melancholy Autumn, but with the first month of school behind us and everybody settling into their "new normal" routines, this October feels like a chance to finally take a deep breath.

I heard a story once that has never left me, about a mission organization that went into a third world jungle area to build an air strip. They hired natives to carry tools and wield machetes to clear their way through the jungle to the site, for so many hours each day in order to arrive at the site on the target date. The natives disapproved of the aggressive schedule, but they held to it for several days until one afternoon, when they stopped working suddenly, sat down and refused to budge. "What's the matter?" the Westerners wanted to know. "Why can't we go on?"

"We have to wait, " the natives explained, "for our souls to catch up to our bodies."

As I write that, I think about homeschooling and the more leisurely pace we are traveling this fall, compared to the curriculum- and schedule-driven pace we were keeping for the last several years. This summer, as I looked toward the fall, the one thing I KNEW was that I could not jump back on that treadmill again. I didn't think my boys could either. We needed to give our souls a chance to catch up to our bodies. It's been a good decision.

Spiritually, too, my life has been full of breathless quickie prayers and the merest sips of Scripture. I don't feel dry--God has really sustained me through all the busyness--but I'm overdue for letting my soul "catch up."

I'm not even sure how to go about it. Writing has always been, for me, a way of processing what's going on inside, so that will be part of it. Reading, too, has always enriched and nourished my mind and heart. I want to join the Gratitude Community, too.

But I wonder if I can also find some time for solitude, which Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, in a recent Christianity Today interview said is the discipline that evangelicals need to be exploring more:

It is the most foundational of the disciplines of abstinence, the via negativa. The evangelical passion for engagement with the world is good. But as Thomas à Kempis says, the only person who's safe to travel is the person who's free to stay at home. And Pascal said that we would solve the world's problems if we just learned to sit in our room alone. Solitude is essential for right engagement.

My little story fits right in with his travel metaphors, I think! I highly recommend the whole interview.

And this short article which I just found while looking for the other, is so perfect that I must quote from it too:

In solitude, I was able to be with God and with what was true about me in utter privacy. There was time and space to attend to what was real in my own life — to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, sit with my questions, attend to my loneliness, shed my tears — and allow God to be with me in those places.

This was not primarily a time for problem-solving or fixing — because not everything can be fixed or solved. It was a time just to "keep still" and wait for God to accomplish what was most needed in my life. It was a very deep kind of rest indeed.

Go and read the rest--it's short!--especially if you are a church leader. (And I think her words to church leaders apply to Christian parents as well.)

So I'm feeling the need for some solitude, to let my soul catch up to my take a deep breath. I doubt I'll be able to go on an extended retreat, but I'm hoping to find an hour here and there. I think even an hour will seem like a long time to me.


Rosa said...

This is so profound. I think that parts of society are so overwhelming, pushing for success or perfection, always pushing for one thing or another, that our soul really does get lost from us.

Thank you for voicing this.. it gives me inspiration for a fresh look on the busyness I've been pushing myself to do.

Linds said...

I hear what you are saying, Jeanne, and I can so empathise with you. I am going to go and read those articles now. Thank you for raising issues we all need, as Christians, to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Jeanne, I have enjoyed your blogs for awhile now, and this one is especially timely. We have just moved across country from Colorado to Charleston, SC. I am in a new town feeling breathless and exhausted...but with nothing to do, no church responsibilities and no friends. So, I am finding time to sit with God and play with my kids--both things lacking during the past 6 months of job hunting and move. I encourage you to enjoy the hours you can find with both God and the children!

Blessings, Anna Smith

At A Hen's Pace said...


So nice to hear from you! And what a surprise--what are you doing in SC?? Last I heard, things were still cruising along there in CO! Are you with another AMIA church? Send me an email!

All--And thanks, all, for your encouraging words. It's nice to hear that others resonate with that chord....


Earthmommy said...

This was indeed a timely message and one I need to heed too!

Summer said...

Jeanne, I'm feeling that way and I haven't moved . . . what's up with that? Glad your giving yourself some small opportunities of quietness. I'm going to do the same. Love you and miss you!