I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away from busyness, time to be. I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.
This spring I was given two posters which I find helpful in reminding me to take being time. (Both givers must have known I needed the message.) A few weeks before the wedding I ran impetuously out to the dark garage to turn on the outside light and rammed into a cardboard cat carrier – mere cardboard, mind you! – and broke the third metatarsal bone in my foot. I have frequently taken mammoth, crashing tumbles without breaking a bone. What a way to do it now! Humiliating, to say the least and my children rub it in by emphasizing the cardboard.
“Can you stay off your feet for six weeks?” the doctor asked.
“No, I’m off day after tomorrow for a ten-day lecture tour all over Ohio. Then we have the wedding, and then I get my grandchildren for a week…”
So off I went, leg in a cast, via wheelchair and crutches and elegant pre-boarding on planes. The first poster was given me on my second stop, the Convent of the Transfiguration near Cincinnati, where I was conducting a retreat. The poster tells me: Listen to the silence. Stay open to the voice of the Spirit.
The second poster came a month later, when I was out of the cast, but still on crutches, sent me by Luci Shaw, who is largely responsible for my struggling to write this book. It shows a covered bridge in the autumn, very much like the covered bridge we drive through en route to Crosswicks, and it echoes my need: Slow me down, Lord.
Good messages. When I am constantly running there is not time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you.
This questioning of the meaning of being, and dying and being, is behind the telling of stories around tribal fires at night; behind the drawing of animals on the walls of caves; the singing of melodies of love in spring, and of the death of green in autumn. It is part of the deepest longing of the human psyche, a recurrent ache in the hearts of all of God’s creatures.
So when the two messages, Listen to the silence. Stay open to the voice of the Spirit, and Slow me down, Lord, came, I was forced to listen, and even to smile as I heard myself saying emphatically to Luci, “No, I most certainly do not want to write about being a Christian artist,” for I realized that the very vehemence of my reaction meant that perhaps I should, in fact, stop, and listen. The Holy Spirit does not hesitate to use any method at hand to make a point to us reluctant creatures.
From “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle