My, it has been a full two years! I had no idea of the time and effort it would take to launch and grow a non-profit while at the same time keeping the bills paid. Perhaps it is akin to the naivety that is part of being pregnant for the first time. The ignorance allows you to move into it with eagerness and by the time you realize what you have taken on as a new parent, there is no going back!
It has been a lot, but not altogether unfamiliar. I tend to keep a full schedule. It is an ongoing effort to keep my life manageable. A number of years ago, I sat down with a wise friend and asked her to help me discern what to eliminate from my calendar. She said, “Jackie, you will always be a busy person. That is how God put you together. Why not invite Sabbath into the busyness?” Of course, I need to keep an eye on my level of activity. It is a discipline of saying “no” to the many things I want to do. But her insight was a grace from God. It was in response to her comment that I implemented the practice of taking a few minutes after lunch each day to pause and remember who I am and whose I am. That practice has stayed with me for years and has helped me remain centered throughout the day. It has helped me to be present to what God would have for me to do within the busyness.
Urban Holmes wrote the following in his book Spirituality for Ministry:
- Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and their uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only for such a quiet point that we can listen attentively. When I was in my first parish, which was located in the middle of the city, a constant stream of indigents came through. One came into my office and wanted to tell me his story. I sat as if to listen but was deeply troubled inside over some issue now long forgotten. I remember I was fiddling with a pencil. The man stopped in his story, looked at me and said, “Young Father, the least you can do is listen.” He was right. There was no still center in me.
- Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the fascinating Cistercian monk whose writings continue to increase in popularity, found the busy life of a Trappist very disconcerting. Despite the fact that speaking is severely curtailed in a Cistercian monastery, he found the place incredibly noisy. For many years he sought permission to live as a hermit on the property of the monastery. He needed the quiet that he might listen. Too frequently we do not understand the hermit’s discipline, a discipline that needs to be ours in spirit if not in fact.
This is what my friend was communicating to me. There will be demanding times in our lives—seasons in which we cannot carve out large chunks of time to set aside to listen. Yet even within this frantic pace, we can maintain the spirit of listening. We can keep our eyes on Christ and maintain an awareness of the true purpose of our activities—to be part of God’s healing love in this hurting world!