I offer a quote and a story today. Both of these things have come to my attention in the last 24 hours and both are quite convicting to me.
It strikes me increasingly just how hard-pressed people are nowadays. It’s as though they’re tearing about from one emergency to another. Never solitary, never still, never ever really free, but always busy about something that just can’t wait. Amid this hurly-burly we lose touch with life itself. We have the experience of being busy, while nothing seems to happen. The more agitated we are, the more compacted our lives become and the more difficult it is to keep a space where God can let something truly new take place.
– Henry Nouwen, “Letter to Marc About Jesus”
I read this earlier today, and it drove home a short story / anecdote I’d read yesterday afternoon (below). I am busy with things that I think are important. I suppose we all make a decision as to what we believe is important and then pursue that end. I understand that on some level there are stopping points in life where we look back and either assess what we’ve done or ignore it. If we choose to assess our pursuits, motivations, and direction it is altogether possible that we will see some of those “important” things in a light that shows them to be not quite as critical as we first thought. Instead of growing guilty and regretful maybe the answer is to look back more often and attempt to course correct with a frequency that keeps our trajectory more pure, more clean. To be sure, there is a balance in life. We all hold up a certain number of plates, trying to keep them spinning, watching some hit the ground and catching others just in time. My goal, until next assessment, isn’t necessarily to drop all the plates and start over, but to be more intentional in choosing which plates to start spinning in the first place.
I had accepted the call as senior pastor of a large congregation that had recently erected a huge, state-of-the-art building resulting in major debt. Feeling the pressures of my new responsibility—and with a strong desire to impress my parishioners—I hit the ground running. I was in the office early every day, and almost every evening I was out shepherding the flock or reaching out to potential church members.
My wife, Teresa, was very understanding, but our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Mandi, was perplexed by my absence. Mandi loved for me to read to her after dinner each evening—a practice I continued in my new position, with one caveat: I would sit on the edge of my recliner with her seated by my side and read a quick story or two before rushing out for another night of harried activity.
One evening Mandi said something that jolted me back to reality about my role as a father. I had sat down with her in my recliner—once again on the edge, ready to quickly read and run. While I was reading, Mandi interrupted me, patted the recliner seat, and said, “Scoot back, Daddy, scoot back.” She knew on those rare occasions when I wasn’t going back out that I would relax, sit back in my recliner, and leisurely read stories to her heart’s content.
Her words pierced my soul as I understood what she was really saying: “Please slow down, Daddy. Make time for me!” Appropriately chastened, I scooted back.
Phil LeMaster, Cane Ridge, Tennessee
Maybe it’s time we all considered “scooting back” a little more often.