Reflection: A Quiet Place


I just spent two weeks derailed by a cold.

After a busy week in busy season, I got slammed with the same bug that has hit everybody else.

Not Covid.

Not Flu.

Not Pneumonia

Just a gift bag of achy, feverish, congested misery, with a cough that made it difficult to breathe, talk, or do much of anything for a few days, and quickly reminded me how much of my work depends on speaking clearly, and not coughing on people.

I’m feeling better now.

Something interesting, however, happened in that space.

I was quiet.

At this point Lori would likely counter, having been kept up all night by my hacking like an angry walrus, that I was anything but quiet.

But the space that emerged made room for some contemplation.

I am rarely still.

I mean, I read in silence.

I write in silence.

And I may pray in silence.

But there are few moments in which I quiet my mind.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak,”

I struggle with the silent time.

My head screams during meditation. Praying a straight line through the labyrinth between my ears is hard enough.

So actually getting quiet leads to both novelty and noise.

The Bible speaks of God’s appearance to The Prophet Elijah as involving a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire. But God wasn’t in any of those. He spoke in a gentle whisper.

I don’t know about you, but I often miss the whisper because I’m busy putting out fires.

I would love to make rest decisions for proactive reasons, but too frequently, I don’t.

One of the blessed ironies of ministry is that the day we identify as sabbath is the busiest day of the week. And the Holy Days that draw the most people into a time of sacred rest are the most hectic of them all.

So we have to carve pockets of rest where they don’t otherwise exist, and then conscientiously protect them.

Most people I know in ministry are serial sabbath violators. We don’t rest at all.

There’s always a need.

It always seems worth the sacrifice.

And this is probably true no matter what our work is. If
you’re a politician, or a professor, or a parent, or even just a person,
you can easily find yourself making decisions out of a sense of duty
that lead to chronic self-harm.

When ministry became full-time work, I learned I had to be clear on my assignments and boundaries. Prior to that point the criteria for involvement was “How much do you love God?” Which meant that saying yes was not a matter of time management, but an affirmation of faith with a side order of guilt. Which leads to the sort of well-intended, wrong-headed decision-making that has you saying yes to everything.

Until you break.

You become the parent who puts their child’s oxygen mask on before their own, then passes out and can’t help anyone.

I tend to spiritualize sickness. It’s easy to conclude that getting sick was a divine appointment to get me to slow down. It’s equally likely I should eat some broccoli and go to bed two hours earlier.

Either way, the need for rest is real.

There’s always tomorrow.

And as Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Sometimes it’s good to be quiet.


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