Things have been somewhat manic recently – a confluence of circumstances that have meant that I’ve been uncharacteristically busy; stuff from work, home, family, friends, church and these kind of charity gigs have all conspired to happen in an unfeasibly short time span. My head is still whirling as I type!
However, in the midst of the chaos a sort of counterintuitive calm has been emerging, or at least a headspace that means that I can sit and blog a little, sitting here in the dojo where my boys are doing their jujitsu lesson!
In a strange way, I think the sense of calm comes as a response to the frenetic activity; you see, I tend to get bored/distracted very (and I mean VERY) easily – I’m one of those people who wants to get to the end of things too quickly (although I still deem it heresy of the highest order to turn to the back of the book first!), I gulp my food down, I rush jobs, I speed read, I drive too fast, I frequently speak before I engage my brain … you get the picture. But, the busy nature of things recently has meant I’ve not really had the chance to get ahead of myself, I’ve been running to catch up mostly, so I’ve had to get used to the idea that things have their own pace and life and sense of rhythm that I can’t circumvent or control. The pace of things means that I simply can’t get ahead of myself; I’ve no choice other than to ‘go with the flow.’
My wife teaches children with visual impairments – ranging from fairly mild, to complete blindness – and one of the conditions she encounters with some of her pupils is called Nystagmus. Nystagmus is characterised by rapid, flickering eye movements – but most (if not all) of her pupils have what she describes as a ‘quiet zone’ in their field of vision; a way of holding their head that means these involuntary rapid eye movements are significantly calmed or even stilled.
Maybe, if you’re like me and have a mind that flits about like a butterfly on speed, you too may find that being busy takes you to a sort of ‘quiet zone’ in your own ever oscillating thoughts.
At the moment I’m finding this ‘quiet zone’ in the fact that I can plug myself into my iPod in work (whilst cutting things up on the circular saw for example), and this means that in the midst of my current headlong rush through my life I’m actually finding a space where I can (re)listen to sermons from my home church as well as more ‘famous’ (whatever that means in this context) teachers like Rob Bell, Shane Hipps, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Richard Rohr and others. Consequently, I’m finding a curious place of ‘Sabbath’ within the manic, rev counter in the red range, 32x fast forward feeling.
The background noise of my general life, the ebb and flow of the days, the stuff of work, home life, church etc. is moving at such a pace that it seems to have bled into one continuous hum. Curiously, I’m not finding this distracting or irritating at the moment (I’m sure it will become so if this pace continues; in fact I’m sure this pace is unsustainable much longer but – alleluia – Easter holidays beckon!!), it’s like the hum has become so high-pitched that I can’t hear it anymore, meaning I can hear other things more clearly.
What I’m hearing – what I’m seeing and experiencing – is other people around me being so supportive, of myself and each other, that I’m frequently surprised by ‘lump in the throat’ emotion. What I hear, see and experience is the living embodiment of Ephesians 4:16: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” People working hard around me, with me and for me show me the reality of faith and community that is defined not in narrow doctrinal understandings but in ways that mean tea and coffee get made, laundry is washed, people get fed, songs get sung, words get spoken and written and even that baseball bats get swung at giant credit cards and cardboard guitars get smashed (you had to be there …!)
What I hear, see and experience is perhaps an echo of 1 Kings 19 and that “still small voice” that isn’t in the hurricane and fire of my hectic life but exists beyond it in the quiet words I listen to on my iPod, the kind words others speak directly to me, the help I receive and give, the community I belong to and love and get frustrated with all at the same time. This is the same still small voice that says “Go back the way you came,” and encourages me to dive back into the Technicolor, widescreen, Dolby surround sound chaos that is my (and most likely your) life.
I hear, see and feel a sense of stillness that is separate from circumstance, a calm in the eye of the storm, maybe even a peace that passes understanding shows me that I’m not defined by my activity or my achievements but that there’s something more permanent, more real about me than those narrow things could accurately describe.
So, I plunge back into the ocean of commotion that is the current state of things and find myself even beginning to enjoy being tossed and turned around in it all, as though I’m on some rollercoaster fairground ride that might make me queasy and uneasy occasionally but still has me going to rejoin the queue to ride again.
Hopefully, it might be a little gentler the next time round, but if not I’m at least sure that it’ll be real and full-on and holy and spiritual and messy and abundant and exhausting and refreshing and everything that your life is too …
Just join me in the queue won’t you?