Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ebb and Flow

We typically assume that leisure is a privilege for those who can take time for it, but it is not. Leisure is a virtue. It is the virtue of those who give time to whatever takes time and give as much time as it deserves. In so doing, we are working leisurely, finding meaning in work and becoming fully alive. If we have a strict work mentality we are only half alive. We are like people who only breathe in, and suffocate. It really doesn’t make any difference whether you only breathe in or only breathe out; you will suffocate in either case. . . . We have to breathe in and breathe out and so we keep alive. This is really what we are all after and iswhat all religion must be about – aliveness. . . .

One last question: Why are we not more alive? The answer is one word—fear. One thing is at the root of everything that distorts or destroys life—and that is fear. We are simply afraid to be alive. Why are we afraid to be alive? Because to be alive means giving ourselves, and when we really give ourselves, we never know what’s going to happen to us.

—Brother David Steindl-Rast
Common Sense Spirituality

When I awoke this morning I did not want to get out of bed. Putting off the inevitable, I opened David Steindl-Rast’s book and read the words quoted above.Somehow they spoke to me in a way I can’t even quite articulate.

Perhaps it is his understanding of leisure; the sense of leisure as a virtue rather than a state of being, something to be lived right now in whatever circumstances we find ourselves—even in the middle of our work—rather than in some far off “retirement” or the realization that “Thank God It’s Friday.”

Perhaps it is his image of the breath— the ebb and flow of our lungs, the balance of work and leisure, the flowing essence of our very being—without which we die.And perhaps it is because I have been working so hard to finish numerous tasks before a week of vacation and a week of General Assembly that I am totally out of balance on the leisure part of the equation!

I know it is bad when Barb asks me over dinner, “So how are you doing, Sweetie?” And later, after deflecting her concern for my state of mind and simply restating my to-do list, I’m compelled to apologize for nearly suffocating myself and her simply because I forgot to exhale, forgot to find leisure in the midst of work.

One of the things I know about worship is that it is absolutely good for nothing! In the act of worship we produce no product; we make no plans (aside from those omnipresent to-do lists that run down the side of the order of worship). We don’t even come to make ourselves better people, though over time that might be a nice byproduct for some.

No, I’m beginning to think that our time of worship could best be described as leisure, as exhale, as a gift we give ourselves to restore balance; a safe-haven, a sanctuary, a place to practice aliveness; to leave fear at the door and walk into pure unadulterated grace.

What is true is this: this particular day will soon be over, night will fall again. The accumulation of our days continues to a point; they are not endless.

Our work then might very well be our leisure, our sheer enjoyment in living, all contained within the spacious heart of God.

blessings + peace,