Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ebb

Last week, my engine light came on. I took the car to the shop, where the technician hooked the computer up to my dashboard, looked at the screen and promptly frowned. "You shouldn't be driving this car," he said. "You've got seven system warnings firing; something is seriously wrong. I can drive you home. I think you should leave the car here. It isn't safe." So I did. Once home, I canceled all the offsite meetings I had scheduled for the next few days. Thankfully, most of my meetings for the week were by phone. But then, one by one, various people called and canceled all but one of those as well. Within a few hours, what was a full week of meetings turned into an unexpected private retreat. A blank canvas. This was starting to feel like a setup...

"You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction." 
(Psalms 23:2-3, The Message)
Life is full of rhythms. This is by Design. Years. Seasons. The ebb and flow of the tides. Day and night. The circadian rhythms that govern our bodies' daily cycle of consciousness and sleep. The more frequent cycle of hunger and activity that we pass through several times a day. Even our breath is governed by a rhythm that marks the passing of each moment of our lives. But the one rhythm we often miss--or perhaps intentionally resist--is what my friend Ruth Haley Barton calls the Sacred Rhythm. (Click here to see her book by that title, and here to read an article she wrote giving an overview of these rhythms in the life of a leader.) These are repeating cycles of active engagement in the work you are called to, solitude & rest, and restorative community. As any athlete will tell you, our bodies are not designed to sprint at full speed indefinitely. Neither are our souls. Just as our body needs both rest and refueling after a season of exertion, so do our hearts. A lot of us are slogging onward through our days with our souls dangerously dehydrated and starved, but it's been that way so long we don't even feel it anymore.

After more than three days in the shop, it turns out nothing at all was wrong with my car. Its absence didn't cost me a penny, but through it God called me away for a time of much needed solitude, rest and reflection with Him.

You have to pay attention to the signs. Sometimes when it feels like your best-laid plans are running foul, it may just be a signal from above. And the smartest thing you can do is drop your war and run away, at least for a while.



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