I have laid off the blog for a bit. Not because I did not want to write but because I had to do it. I am trying to make a conceded effort to listen and not talk so much. There has certainly been no shortage of opinions these days so I figured mine would not be missed. It was not.
The presence of social media has given voice to every thought and opinion imaginable. Everyone’s cap-locks seemed to work just fine. A whole lot more extra key strokes were wasted and no one seems to have had their opinions swayed.
I have always tried to be careful with my words and posts. I will admit I have botched it up a time or two (or more). But as a United Methodist clergy, I am part of a connectional clergy system, very different than some denominations. We are in a relationship of appointment under a bishop. We are constantly working together, we follow each other in churches and maintain relationships with other clergy, even those who we follow after in churches. As such, our words connect us as well. When we speak on issues of importance and especially on issues where our larger denomination has spoken, we should be speaking and acting out of consideration for our fellow clergy. Our actions and our words sometimes have unintended consequences for one another.
So out of that, I began to try even harder to listen. I am intending to continue this journey of listening, silence and reflection. As part of my experience with The Upper Room’s Academy of Spiritual Formation (I have done one 5-day and just began the 2 Year Academy), I have discovered how difficult forgoing electronic communication can be. I have also learned how soothing for the soul it is to disconnect.
This past week I ran across an expert from John Wesley in a letter. In his letter to John Trembath, August 17, 1760, John Wesley follows up a conversation. In it, he encourages the young preacher who had begun developing a reputation not quite to Mr. Wesley’s liking. In his kind, albeit a bit sarcastic manner, Wesley points out exactly how the young preacher ought to behave and to speak (especially when it comes to pointing out other people’s “foibles”). But then he delves into the spiritual and the manner by which this young man ought seek God. It is in his concluding words that John Wesley writes these rarely quoted but desperately needed words:
“Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.”
While there are varying degrees by which we may give our soul means to grow, it is without a doubt crucial for us to consider our souls need for silence, time to reflect, time to listen to the sounds of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean tossing out all your electronics and computers (though for some it may very well take that for a time – I think I’m talking to myself here) but it does mean considering simplicity in life. To seek God in this way, to pray in this way is in Jean Stair’s words, to be “wrapped in quietness, patience, and a spirit of waiting and restfulness.”
That kind of life, a more contemplative way, is just stinking hard whether you consider all our connectedness or you do not. If you work a job, have a family, go to school, it is rough. If you are trying to find a job and worry how to support your family or just yourself, it can be just as futile to find this place or time to do justice to your soul.
I am going to throw into the mix three things to UN-do, three things that may help, may move more in-line with the lives of those who have had more healthy souls than mine has been. Just consider…
Unplug: Shut it all off. If it isn’t a living plant, animal or mineral, do not give it your attention. Pet the cat, feed the fish, water the plant, whatever, just turn off the electrical stimulants. If it speaks listen. If it is silent, don’t feel like you have to open your mouth…you don’t. Period – don’t argue. I mean it.
Un-commit: Don’t schedule your day so full that you get no time to taste the food you are eating or savor the one quiet moment that the kids take a nap. It is your schedule. It won’t happen all the time so don’t heap on the guilt too.
Understand: Jesus’ life and pattern was that of a Jew in the first century. It was patterned off rituals and harvests. There was place for Sabbath rest and synagogue worship. What we’ve done to all those pattern in 21st century culture is a classic case of missing the point – time with Jesus, in His creation, IS the point.
It may take time. We did not get here in a manner of a few years but over centuries. What it will take is a conviction to be more like Jesus: loving others more than ourselves, knowing that before his accusers he could have said more and did not. Knowing too, that he can judge us more harshly and un-do us completely and yet gives us grace.