Who is it that can make muddy water clear?
But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I have been intrigued and inspired over the past week or so as I have listened to people share how they are looking after themselves through this season of physical isolation and multiple restrictions. While each person’s way of participating in self-care is unique, there are many similarities that have been emerging.
For most people in this time of COVID-19 restrictions, exercise is becoming increasingly important. After a time of grieving that normal physical activity options are not available, people have become creative in how they are achieving a level of action in their day. From using apps to increasing walking routes, learning to run/cycle/lift weights, through to family activities. Many people are discovering, or re-discovering, the cathartic benefits of preparing home-cooked meals – and other delicacies (maybe that’s why the exercise is so important!). Some are finding time to binge-watch shows, others are picking up spiritual disciplines like journaling, meditating, and “jumping” into as many Sunday services online as they possibly can. Still others are finding their self-care lies in doing things for others, and knitting beanies for the homeless has featured in several people’s self-care plans.
I have often found benefit on reflecting on the ministry journey of Jesus as we read in the Gospel stories. Jesus spent a lot of time doing things – healing, teaching, feeding, blessing. And Jesus also made opportunities to spend time being. He would take himself off to a quiet place where he could be with God, where he could centre himself in God and make sure that God was centre of his life. Fully human, Jesus was aware that he could easily make his ministry about himself, that he could readily succumb to the temptation constantly in front of him to become the leader, the Messiah, the people were expecting and for whom they were hoping. Fully divine, Jesus knew that his entire ministry must draw people’s attention to God, and that he needed the quiet times with God to keep himself following God’s plan.
For many people, myself included, it is so much easier to be doing things. I have been sharing with some people this week about the “tyranny of busyness,” and how being busy can be seen as a sign of importance and value. The underlying message we can hear is that we are only valuable and worthwhile when we are busy doing things.
The message I need to keep learning as I reflect on Jesus’ ministry journey is that the times of being are as important as the times of doing. For Jesus, they were so important that he would create opportunity to be with God, including getting up while it was still early or staying on at a place after the crowds and disciples had left. If it was important for Jesus, how much more important is it for us?
A vast number of people have been sharing how they anticipated that after a few weeks at home they would have a lot more time available because things would settle down into some kind of routine. For so many, this hasn’t eventuated according to plan! The busyness continues. Many years ago my supervisor shared with me that he had scheduled into his calendar each day a time to pray. An alarm was set to remind him that it was prayer-time. I loved the idea, and set an alarm twice a day in my own calendar. It was marked as “Pray.” At 10.30am and 3pm every day, my attention was drawn to this. As years passed, I learned to silence the alarm and ignore the calendar entry. I ended up deleting them (mostly because I didn’t want to feel guilty!). I wonder if I can be bold enough to invite you to join me in adding into your calendar, maybe once a day, maybe twice a day – that’s up to you – the invitation to “BE” with God. To put aside for a moment, or possibly a few moments, the busyness of whatever it is that we are doing and simply be still and rest in God’s presence and love. If it is something that you only do once, may you be blessed in that moment. If it is a discipline that you carry forward for a few days, or weeks, or even months, may you continue to find blessing in those moments. I am fully convinced that it will be a blessing for God.
Blessings and peace,
(I have added to my calendar each day at 10am and 3pm – times “randomly” selected – “BE.”)