Suffering Stillness

I woke gently this morning.  And it gave me pause.

A new morning routine has developed for me as an employed person, and my morning seems always to begin with a jolt.  I throw off the bed covers, zero in on the kitchen to prepare the coffee, zoom over to the ironing board to plug in the iron so it will be piping hot to press Rebecca’s clothes (and mine, once she heads out the door), and then race back to the refrigerator to forage for lunch fixings.  After throwing together breakfast, packing the lunches, and finishing the ironing, I say goodbye to Rebecca and begin my own “getting ready”–shower, selecting clothes, checking and rechecking that I applied deoderant.   By the time I chug my coffee and head out the door, the sun has risen and the day, full of further routines and responsibilities, greets me with a hurried hello. 

But today was different.  I didn’ jump out of bed.  I still had a number of things to do–the morning routine still beckoned–but I felt a sense of calm and openness to the day.   That calm and openness reminded me that I have not been good about taking time to step back and reflect, either by blogging or simply sitting in the stillness of the morning air.  I hoped that this unexplained serenity that overcame me would also re-orient me.  I trusted that this peaceful insight would be for me a tug from God’s Spirit.

I’ve discovered just how easy it is to slip into a busied, hurried, task-driven posture.  I’m driven by a deep sense of responsibility–to my wife, to my vocation and employer, and to excellence in ministry.  Yet, when I drain myself of the peace and stillness that generates “presence,” I am sure my relationship to my wife, my relationship to God, and my ministry suffer.

And yet it can feel like I am suffering when I remain still, even for a short time.  I have so much I need to be doing.  The call of my task list, incomplete from the day before and quickly filling for the day ahead, drowns out the call of God’s Spirit to rest my soul in the splendor of God’s triune life.

And so I woke this morning discovering just how intentional I need to be in structuring quiet and stillness into my day–not just personally, but vocationally as well.  Why is it that pastors don’t begin their day in meditation and prayer?  Why is it that pastors don’t live into the sabbath life-style they so often promote?  Better yet, why doesn’t this pastor, me, begin his day in meditation and prayer and live into a sabbath lifestyle?

I think what I need is to reframe responsibility.   I am not shirking responsibility by not engaging my “to do” list immediately.  Rather, I remain responsible in quieting myself and centering myself in prayer each day.  In fact, I become more responsible, that is, more response-able, by doing so.  I allow God’s Spirit to open me by prayer and stillness to the suffering of the world and its inhabitants–which is why stillness feels so intolerable at times.  I become sensitive to the rhythms and patterns of human life that mark those people I encounter.  My listening ears are activated and sensitized to the hushed whispers of our many human predicaments.

So, this morning, I covenant to pause and suffer stillness.  And now, in the wake of my reflections, I pause.  Thanks be to God.

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5 thoughts on “Suffering Stillness

    • Candice,

      Yes, I loved this distinction/connection as well. My professor in Divinity School, William (Bill) Schweiker, introduced me to this while we read the 20th century theologian H. Richard Neibuhr’s book, The Responsible Self.

      For Neibuhr, to be responsible is to be response-able to ourselves, the world, and ultimately to God. He wrote that responsibility is a way of life in which all actions, all actions, are acted out as a response to God’s presence with us. Radical. Simple. Transforming.

      Thanks for your comments, friend–I’m so excited to keep in conversation with you through this blog!

      Michael

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