The week technically began yesterday (Monday), but if you’re like me it takes a day to get your bearings. It typically takes a day to figure out what a week, a unique period of life, will look like. A few reminders help jolt us into reality.
On Monday cloudy skies hung low over Chicago, pregnant with rain but not yet ready to deliver. The week began with hope, promises, expectations, and tasks. Now, we’re in the midst of what just a few days ago we called “next week.” Remember that?
Writing on the way memories impact our spiritual lives, I dealt with the topic of significant past memories. Trauma, failure, disappointment, and loss dot our neurological landscape.
However, there is also a smaller form of memory.
I find that to thrive in my work, family, and marriage I need these smaller memories. In fact, the journey where we embrace “everything becoming” requires small reminders in order to maintain momentum.
We need phrases, images, and thoughts to call our souls back to the center. Back to the Divine that surrounds us and beckons us into something more beautiful. Back to the path and the way of Jesus that reveals true reality (the heart of John 14:6, in my opinion).
These reminders fill the minutes and hours of every “next week” that comes our way.
So, despite the fact that it’s Tuesday I wanted to share 3 helpful reminders. As the work-worn week unfolds its tentacles towards us, these are the things that keep us upright and growing.
The Divine is close enough, but also far enough away.
I attended a college only 3 hours from my hometown. I remember many weekends taking Route 229 through the quiet Amish countryside of central Ohio before turning onto I-77 southbound towards Charleston, WV.
The story I often tell about this period of time is that college was “close enough” to home where I could make my way back rather easily. It didn’t hurt that gas was $0.99 a gallon (briefly) at the time.
But home was also “far enough away” to give me a sense of independence, freedom, and self-reliance that I needed.
We live in a world where The Divine, God, or whatever name you use to describe that reality, is close by. I believe that in Jesus we see and are promised that God is immanent. The Divine is here, with us, by us, and attends to us.
However, in the work we do each week – parenting, getting clean and sober, making things or managing people, etc. – the Divine is also above it. There is a sense of “away-ness” that reminds us that the Divine is also pure mystery. The word is transcendent, giving the Divine the ability to see above the weeds we slog through in a week’s time.
As you wrestle with whatever this week brings, remember that the Divine is close enough to weep and suffer with us.
Remember also that the Divine is far enough away to bring us through – and out – of our dark spaces. Eventually.
There must be time this week to stop doing things.
I’m preparing to teach a course on the theology of service and Sabbath this coming winter. It is a graduate level class I taught years ago, and what remains true is the importance of the rhythm of work and rest.
This week, I know there are some of us who have worked into a place where we believe the world is contingent on our effort. We have discovered an identity – probably not ouridentity, but one that seems to gather respect – in our activity. People love what we do, they praise us and adore us for the way we work “tirelessly” and without stopping.
Side note: this identity is killing us.
Likely there will be times during this week where we have to grind it out. There are tasks to be done, kids to raise and drive to practices, and relational conversations that we need to engage. Yet in the midst of all that important work, there needs to be a moment of calm quiet. If not, we can easily become deluded into thinking we “are what we do” instead of “being apart from doing.”This week, remember that you have been created good from the beginning. The Franciscan stream of theology says that instead of “original sin,” the story of the Bible begins with “original blessing.”
In other words, before the first humans ever named an animal or raised a crop the Divine called them “very good.”
Remember this week: if you were to surrender the fantasy that you actually run the world, you will find that your soul is well behind you, gasping in the dust. A few hours where you turn off the phone and the emails, get alone and quiet, or engage in a life-giving activity could reunite you with the soul that makes you who you are. Very good.
Of course, this week is also when we need to do something.
I have an easier time coming up with ideas than I do executing them. Of course I know I’m not alone. There is someone else reading this post that has a stack of notebooks filled with book ideas, drawings, plans for non-for-profits, on and on ad nauseum.
They will die as ink on a page, however, if they never take on flesh and bone.
The New Testament talks about something called the “spirit of the law.” Paul specifically highlights the fact that the commandments – better rendered as torah or “instructions” rather than the heavier word “law” – have come to life in Jesus.
In other words, we follow a teacher, a Rabbi who breathed life into the instructions that lead the world to hope again. He watched His Divine Father do the same with the humus that is humanity. We are created in that same image, with the same potentiality to let vitality die in drying ink and inactivity.
We can plan and scheme. Notes are taken, dreams cultivated, and visions elucidated. Then, we check another email and have another snack. We play one more round of Contest of Champions on our phone, saying we’re taking a “break” and after 30 minutes we’ll get back to it. Hours pass.
Ok, that one was deeply personal. I’ll remember that.
Remember this week, perhaps it’s time to simply do the thing. This isn’t about guilt or shame, because many of us procrastinate. We do it out of fear or lack of self-confidence. Delay comes because we get distracted or depressed. Let’s just put out into the open the fact that procrastination is more of a protection mechanism than it is an issue of laziness.
Though sometimes we’re lazy, too.
You have a thing you have been given to do. A person needs forgiveness, an article needs written, a painting finished. The book that is scattered on post-its and digital documents must come together and incarnate itself in the world. I believe in this heavily, so much so that I often think of the acronym “DTDT.”
Perhaps this week the most spiritual thing we can do is to say “DTDT” or “Do The Darn Thing.”
We say it, then we do it.
Have the conversation.
See the spiritual director.
Write the book.
Start the podcast.
Memorize the Scripture.
So what will you remember this week? Perhaps a line in this post awakened something else in you: a fourth or fifth thing to remember. That’s good. Take these three as merely a guide.
They are raw material for this week’s spiritual journey of being you in the company of the Divine. These three notes are there to guide us in following the way of Jesus, resting and working and listening. All the while knowing that everything we do is a way we are becoming that which we were designed to become.