The pressure levels in my life rose dramatically over the past few weeks, though I don’t feel overly stressed about it. Perhaps that’s a defensive mechanism learned over years of coping with stress, but I’m sleeping and relating well. Rather, I’d like to think that I’ve learned how to navigate projects as they near the deadline. Either way, I see the end in sight in three days and Kel and I will be grateful for the break.
There’s a philosophy I learned from submarines: Sprint/Drift. The idea comes from the practice submarines use when they hunt other vessels. Attacks subs will sprint fast for a while, then drift silently along in the ocean, actually quieter than the ambient noise of the ocean. And the subs then listen. Quietly. Drifting. Still. Passive, actually. When was the last time you drifted passively for a short period of time.
In my life, I can sprint for periods of time, but I’ve learned there needs to be a “drift” period at the end of it. Where I listen. Quietly. Even passively sometimes. Sometimes the drifting looks like acts of service to others without notice. Or helpfulness in unusual ways. Without notice. See, we often approach these drift periods focused on ourselves, pride the perennial ailment of humanity.
I woke today to two blog posts focused on creating space in our lives. Gwen Bell posted a short reminder of the need for such space-giving in the middle of our productivity-focused existence. Then Pastor John Piper, arguably one of the most influential Christian pastors in the US, announced an 8-month leave of absence from the production-focused part of his life. His goal is to refocus on the more “organic” aspects of his life, to renew his passion for Jesus Christ, and to renew his relationship with his family. There hasn’t been major missteps, just an awareness that the balanced had tipped his life too far and the resulting cracks in character needed fixing for future faithfulness and effectiveness.
As we create sacred space, we need to determine what the goal of that space is to be. Is it simply to feel good about ourselves? Is it to find our breathe again from the panting of productivity? Or is there a God we seek? And, if so, what is his nature? And how do we seek him? The problem is often that we create sacred space and then we control it. The Bible reveals stories of a surprising God who is the I AM of Moses’ sacred space (Exodus 3 & 4) and of an unexplainable outpouring of his Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) that to this day has challenged the church to live sacred lives (Acts 4:42-47).
My morning is my most precious time and it is my best writing space. But, sacred space is the first order of the day and my tools are usually A Guide to Prayer, a Bible, and some music. Oh, and good coffee, of course. If I pass that space and rush to the day’s agenda, I find that I’m less in tune with what God desires in my life that day, work-wise or otherwise. I find, too, that things just go better (truly!) when I’ve established that spiritual (holy?) foundation. [Again, the temptation here is to read "go better" with a self-focus and see it as "things go my way." That's not often what it looks like.]
- Where are your space-giving moments each week? (If there’s visual media involved, try again.)
- What does your sacred space look like and on whator who does it focus?
- Are you in a sprint right now? If so, do you have a drift planned?
Few of us can afford an 8-month time off, but we can develop some patterns that provide ongoing renewal. When I read Pastor John’s word, “In 30 years, I have never let go of the passion for public productivity,” I thought of the way this has been true in my life. Last spring, I got to take 3 months’ sabbatical in Africa with my whole family. I was surprised how little I produced during that writing/research period. But I’m aware of how much that time away accomplished. Life-changing.
It might be a good practice this week, this holy week within the Christian tradition, to schedule your sacred spaces on the calendar for 2010. Then, you may want to review what they’ll look like so they become God’s sacred spaces in your life for 2010.