I've been thinking a great deal about the concept of "worthiness" lately, which is ironic as here I am in the small slice of weather called "summer" in the hills of Western Massachusetts--a time to garden, pick flowers, walk up the road with our Jack, visit with friends, and sip chilled wine or cold seltzer on our deck and watch the swallows dip over the green hills. Given all of that, why does my mind torment me?
Let's blame it on Nadia Bloz-Weber, my favorite evangelical Lutheran pastor. In a recent podcast she says that we have no time to rest because we are all so busy trying to prove our worthiness to others and ourselves. This is a familiar trap, and one which I think we sometimes fall into in our marvelous, talkative, social-justice oriented UCC church.
If we are busy all the time saving the world, reaching out to the marginalized (all worthy and important goals), when do we have time to really stop and just breathe? And we have to avoid the trap of stopping, Nadia cautions, so we can rush out the door to perform even more good works.
Nadia says that a rest should not feel like one more addition to our "to-do list." The Gospel lesson for last Sunday, July 19th, was on Jesus looking for a place to hide out with his peeps, a place to pray to his father, and a place--just maybe--free from the constant demands of his sheep, much as he adored them.
What happens when I really take a substantive break--just sit looking out at the green hills without murmuring to myself--"I really should edge that garden. Darn, the shingles on the house are getting crumbly, time to replace them, but where will we get the money? And Jeez, is that my stomach folding over my waistband?"
When I stop moving and thinking, I see that God keeps on redeeming creation even when I am not in charge, although often I lament that I should be in charge just as Anne Lamott complains that God should have made her overseer of the entire West coast.
So rest. Not as a command, not as a way of becoming more worthy in the eyes of others or our God--however you imagine her to be--but as a way of following Jesus. If he took time off, retreating to that cave in Capernaum just to be with his god, then why can't we? We can do it not as something we have to do but as something we can do.
I have found that when I truly stop moving, thinking, planning and worrying (such a challenge) I am filled with a different kind of breath; not the quick intakes that come from filling my days with "have-tos, should, and ought-tos", but the calm breathing that comes from God and the Holy Spirit, reminding me that we are all loved and held by hands not our own and not in our power. Thanks be to God.