Monday, August 24, 2015

The Violence of Busyness

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
                                                                ---Thomas Merton

I come back to the quote time and again as a touchstone to remind me not to get caught up in the frenzy of busyness, which occurs as much in the church as it does in life outside the church.

If the Kingdom of God is characterized by peace and love, a church that gets carried away by our culture’s fast pace is a violent church, not a representation of the Kingdom of God.

When the church fails to model a rhythm of work and rest, service and Sabbath, community breaks down. Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives, says that our lack of rest and reflection means that when we solve problems, “we do so frantically, desperately, reactively, and badly. . . In the soil of a quick fix is the seed of a new problem, because our quiet wisdom is unavailable. . . When we are moving faster and faster, every encounter, every detail inflates in importance, everything seems more urgent than it really is, and we react with sloppy desperation.”

I have seen the destruction that happens when people try to do too much too fast. People are hurt, and as Muller says, the quick fix mentality breeds new, and often worse, problems. Living with a frantic urgency is not the way Jesus lived. Jesus looked at and listened to people. Even when he was beckoned to save the life of a child, he was so in tune with his inner wisdom that he could feel someone touch his robe for healing (Luke 8:40-56). He did not get in a hurry.

Wisdom does not come from consuming more knowledge and experiences. Wisdom is born and grows in silence, solitude and Sabbath. When we honor our need for rest, we allow God to be God for us. When we act as though we cannot rest, that we must be always involved in frantic activity, we say by our busyness that we do not trust God to act. And when we have, even implicitly, decided that we must act for God, it is only a small step to the violence that leads to decisions and actions that hurt instead of heal others.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Morning Moment

Head down, walking
in darkness, inside and out
I didn’t see her. Close she stood,
graceful, but strong
and wise with nature’s wisdom.
She did not run—why?
Sensing little threat from
this wounded creature, maybe,
her eyes penetrating my darkness.
Then instinct, as I neared,
took over and she silently leapt
into cover, leaving questions, lessons.
If I live by instinct might I see
another’s pain? If my life is silent
might I hear a crying heart?
If I move slowly might I become wise?
If I trust my creatureliness might I
know my Creator?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Empty Fullness

Sliver of moon, like a bowl
appears empty, full of darkness.
I know, but cannot see
its wholeness
its roundness
its completeness.
Earth’s enormous shadow
obscures the truth.
No empty bowl, but whole,
filled with God, hidden,
icon for my empty soul—
wholeness I cannot see
but real. Presence not felt
but known.

Monday, August 3, 2015

States of Heart

In When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd writes about how Mary, Martha’s sister, defied social taboos by entering the circle of men gathered around Jesus. Jesus doesn’t run her off but holds her up as an example of right devotion and focus. He recognizes the state of her heart.

A whole village in Samaria comes to know Jesus because Jesus defied taboos by being alone with a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that, shocking the disciples upon their return. Among many other instances that rile the Pharisees, Jesus eats at Matthew’s house with a whole gang of riff-raff. He’s right there in the midst of their raucous dinner, interacting and I’m sure, enjoying himself.

It was not only after Jesus’ resurrection that he walked through locked doors and broke open the gates of hell. He lived a life of freedom, challenging structures that choked out life and love and growth during his ministry on earth.

When we get caught up in appearances and propriety, I wonder if we put the gospel on lockdown. We substitute rules for grace, laws for love, fear for freedom, and caution for trust. We don’t allow people to risk and dream bold dreams for Christ because we’ve locked them into a prison of rules to keep them safe. We disregard mercy because it’s messy. It takes time to learn the state of someone’s heart, and most of us are so busy being good people that we don’t have time to look into another’s eyes and hear the cry of their heart.

Because Mary was bold enough to follow her heart, we have an example that shows us what Jesus desires from us—our still, listening selves, not people so busy doing for Jesus that they don’t know Jesus. We would do well to be as attentive as Mary, both to Jesus and to one another. You do not learn the state of another’s heart by their conformity to rules. The story of the rich young man, who followed all the rules but could not follow Jesus, shows us that. When a person desires to be with Christ at any cost, they will leave appearances and propriety in the dust in order to be with the One they desire most of all.