I spent a day working on the wooden pier that stretches two hundred feet out into the cypress swamp behind our house. Rotting boards needed replacing. So there was a lot of ripping out of the old and cutting the new planks of wood. Then came placing them into the empty spaces and screwing them onto the structure. Then there was hauling of the rotted wood to the trash, and finally gathering the tools for the next time they are needed.
I sweated enough to need a white bandana across my forehead to even see, and got a bit lost in the work. Several hours into the process I passed the new camellia flower in the photo above. It called me to pause from my work, to really see it, and even to capture the image with my iPhone.
Just as I was taking the picture, a bee flew into the heaven of nectar at the center of the flower. I watched in reverence. I needed that pause, that little Sabbath, to let go of the work and be in the presence of the bee and his heaven.
Now that I am sixty years old, (a number that seems impossible since in my mind I am really about thirty), I can remember many years of work, labor, toil, sweat: thousands of hours of working on projects to change things around me. I got lost in the hours of work many times, and worked to exhaustion many days.
My work has been personal inner work. And my work has been on other people’s lives, as a therapist, pastor, spiritual director, meditation teacher, and retreat leader. And my work has been physical, like building piers over cypress swamps, and decks behind our homes, and buying property to become its custodian, and sweeping a million leaves every fall on those properties.
So I have needed to pause and let go of the work often. I needed many small Sabbaths. And always I have needed those pauses from work to re-center myself. I have needed space for creativity to emerge, and I have needed time to watch the world take care of itself just fine without my interventions. I needed to look for the camellias, and the bees. I needed to be centered in something more vast than my little projects.
I am pausing now, taking much needed time to let the emotional and spiritual effects of the national elections sweep over me and go through me. I have been shocked and disillusioned by the choice of half our country, which means I was naive and illusioned about our country until November 9, 2016. I have been sad for everyone who is not a straight white male. I have felt empathy for our millions of immigrants, and the LGBTQi community, and all of my poor friends, and Muslim friends, and all my friends who are people of color.
I am pausing because I know there is going to be a tremendous amount of work ahead for contemplatives, people who center their lives and service in the presence of God. We are going to have an awful lot of loving to do, to be about God’s business of loving all of our neighbors as we love ourselves, (which is quite different than walling out and expelling our neighbors).
We will be joining our Jewish brothers and sisters in practicing Tikkun olam, repair of the world. When aid to vulnerable people is drastically cut and medical care for millions of us is dismantled as promised, each of us will be engaging with one person at a time in repairing lives as best we can. When predators treat women, all people of color, and all immigrants as victims to be over-powered, locked up, or expelled, we will be doing far more than wearing our safety pins. We will be creating actual safe sanctuaries by making new friends, inviting people into our homes, and practicing random acts of lovingkindness. Despite impossible odds, we will work to birth the kingdom of God in the here and now of a world gone mad.
Saturday we will be gathering as many contemplative people as we can squeeze into our home for a day of retreat, of pausing, to look deep within for how to live out what Jesus said: “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” We will seek the Source of peace within, in community, and out in the natural world around us. We will listen to speakers, and music, and the fall wind in the branches of the cypress and oaks. Saturday we will pause for a true Sabbath.
And then we will get to work.