The drudgery of our daily habits does lend itself to such an approach to life. Think about our jobs, our families, our churches. We are directed by the programatic pressures of western society.
Listen, I’m not against the simple daily habits of life. We all have daily rhythms we enter in to. And I love that word rhythms. Some might call them rituals. Both are correct. It’s just that one causes an unnatural churning in our stomachs when we think about it. Hence, why I use the word rhythms. But I’m not against the daily habits and rhythms of life. As humans, we need them and should appreciate them.
But life doesn’t feel rhythmic a lot of the time. It feels programmed. It feels ruled by the pressures related to time, or clock management. So we (and I) run from one task to the next like a ping-pong ball in the midst of the Olympic championship match. It hurts if we take a moment to reflect on this.
Not only that, but we are controlled by those things in our pockets that we easily find in our hands every 3-5 minutes (maybe even right now as we read this blog post). The “smart” phone. Actually, the inventor of such a contraption should be labelled the “smart inventor”. He or she got us and got us good.
I’m the world’s worst. I head to my lunch break in our staff lounge and I spend most of my time surfing social media apps to “catch up” on things. Oddly enough, I always bring a book with me. But it stays mostly tucked away while my eyes scan for the next great tweet or status update.
God help me! God help us!
Yet, sometimes, we decide to take a breath, a deep breath. We pause for a moment. Eyes open or eyes closed. Perhaps we stare out the window. We imagine things as more than scheduled appointments, mapped out plans and cubicles.
In that moment, if only for a moment, we’ve created a little opening of space to listen, both to our own hearts and to our Father.
Perhaps we don’t take more time because we don’t like what we hear – from either our own hearts or our Father. It’s calling us away from today’s program. Or some of us are type-A driven folk who get a kick out going, going and going…… And that allows us to make excuses for why we don’t allow for space in our lives.
So very much of my life has little space. And even when I do try and carve such out (and I do), the mind wanders, distractions arise, something from “the list” of things to do impedes upon my conscience or whatever else.
Our churches gather and the services are ran on a tight schedule. Really – a tight schedule. Don’t keep westerners past 12:00pm or they’ll start shopping (I mean “looking”) elsewhere. Of course, I’m not calling for our gatherings to enter into the realm of mind-numbingly long services. Lord knows we’ve been in those meetings and they have just as much a death grip on folk as any overly programatic, and timely, service.
But this is where I think we can learn to cultivate space – at the communal level. You see, our usual approach in the west is start with the individual and work outwards to the community. What’s happening personally will move to the community. But I’d posit this is counter to the approach of God’s ancient people who’s story we read about in Scripture. They mainly started within the larger setting and looked for that to move towards the individual.
Thus, if we offered opportunities as a church community to create space – in our services, in our home groups, in such activities as church retreats (instead of the 2-day conferences with 10 speakers and 10 seminars) – we might truly help the individual believer learn to how create space to listen, to simply be and not do.
As one wise person once remarked: We are human beings, not human doings.
Imagine that, as a song of worship ended, we gave some time to linger – with light instrumentation or complete quietness (or perhaps powerfully moving music). What if we recited our liturgy, prayed a congregational prayer and then gave a moment for reflection? Not in the usual way it’s done, like we’re at a sporting event and someone’s called for a “moment of silence” before the playing of the national anthem. A moment that is so right it moves from the chronos to the kairos – the community is aware, by the work of the Spirit, that we need to truly wait on the Lord, right here, right now.
We look for unique, yet simple, ways to encourage space.
Doing so will teach us to have listening ears, to slow down, to give our attention to needs outside the immediate moment and probably much more.
In the end, at least for me, it’s all about creating space for the Spirit of God to do what the Spirit of God does best – speak and act on behalf of God. Not necessarily in some overtly “charismatic” sense, or perhaps. But however that plays out for the people of God – both communally and individually – we need to create space for God, today and always.
Remember today to take a moment, take a step back, take a deep breath, return your thoughts to the One who continually calls us into this sacred romance. The One in whose image we were created is still calling for the garden.