taking time


    Remember when Alanis Morissette told us irony was “like rain on your wedding day” – which is mostly sad and not ironic at all? Well, it’s not raining here in Durham, but I have my own offering of irony: I’ve been all set for a post on Sabbath for several days and haven’t made time to write.

    Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

    This weekend my church hosted a conference on “Faith and the Environment.” My contribution was to help prepare the meals on Friday night and Saturday morning. One of the conference organizers took me on a shopping spree at our State Farmers Market in Raleigh and almost everything we ate came from there. I met some great people doing some wonderful things on both small and large scales. And I heard Norman Wirzba talk about Sabbath and what the concept means for our care of and compassion for the creation of which we are a part.

    Using the Genesis 1 account as a map of sorts, he took us on a journey through the days in which God spoke all that is us and around us into existence and then looked at the Seventh Day when God rested to reflect on the purpose behind everything that had been brought into being. The climax of creation, Wirzba said, was this act of menuha, tranquility and repose. Sabbath is not doing nothing, but resting, reflecting, reinvigorating. Rest, in this sense, is the opposite of restlessness.

    I came away with a couple of quotes that have stayed with me through what has already been a more restless week than I would like. I will quote them and then tell you they pull me beyond the speech in our Fellowship Hall.

    Creation is the place where the love of God is made concrete.

    Creation is an act of ultimate hospitality: God made room for what was not God to be.

    Though I have not been posting, I have managed to get back in the routine of my Morning Pages (thanks, in part, to Wirzba’s words), which I see as a moment of morning Sabbath, if you will. And as I have turned these two ideas over in my mind and heart, what keeps coming to mind pulls me to see them in the light of knowing that I am created in the image of God. As God spent the “week” breathing, speaking, imagining a universe with everything from light years to ladybugs into existence and then followed that brilliance with time to think about what it all meant, I have weeks of my own to consider. What am I breathing, speaking, and imagining into the world in which I live? How is my love made concrete in what I do? Or is it? And then the big one, for me: how am I making room for what is not me to be?

    Twice this week I’ve answered my phone to hear the voice of an old friend. Two different friends, actually. Each one was calling from the road, on their way from one place to another, and began with the same sentence, “I was driving and thinking about you and thought I would call.” The conversations took different turns after their openings, but both had the same result: I hung up the phone feeling loved and connected to something beyond me: to memories and dusty dreams, to laughter and longing, to hope , and to love (as E. E. Cummings said) that is “more thicker than forget.”

    Their love made concrete has made me wonder who needs to hear from me.

    Working in a restaurant kitchen carries with it a certain sense of urgency: we work with perishable products, we are almost always facing a deadline, and, once service starts, we cook until they quit coming. All those things are true, as is the fact that our sense of urgency is as much self-imposed as it is false. I get more calls on my day off than a heart surgeon it seems sometimes, and most of them were, well, not urgent. But waiting is not one of our strong suits. I’m working to understand this urgent illusion because buying into it is one of the ways I end up not making room for what is not me to be. I can’t make room. I don’t have time. I have things to do.

    But living into the wholeness of being created in God’s image is about time, not things. Abraham Joshua Heschel said:

    The Bible is more concerned with time than with space. It sees the world in the dimension of time. It pays more attention to generations, to events, than to countries, to things; it is more concerned with history than with geography. To understand the teaching of the Bible, one must accept the premise that time has a meaning for life which is at least equal to that of space; that time has a significance and sovereignty of its own.

    If time is at the core of what life means, even as God took the seventh day to relish and reflect on what he had brought to be, how then does time feel like such a tyrant? Why do I feel I have to wrestle my schedule to find time for Ginger, for writing, for life?

    I am not living creatively, I think. God did not imagine me living this way. I want to take time to imagine living differently as well.

    And then write a new creation story of my own.



    1. This is wonderful, Milton. Powerful and challenging and, as always, beautifully sincere. “Making room for what is not me to be” is one I’m definitely putting in my pocket and taking with me.

      Thank you.

    2. “God did not imagine me living this way.”

      Indeed not! Thank you for the reminder, Milton. My own life of late has not been anything that God would imagine, much less encourage. Too much chaos and not enough calm. (Work stress, my mother’s illness, lack of sleep…)Blessings on you for uttering the prophetic words to bring that truth to light for me. You find such poetic and simple ways to convey profound realities. Thank you for your wisdom.

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